Bandusia Permaculture Sydney Institute

Immerse Yourself in a Permaculture Design Course 4th July 2016

we can do itWhy Do a Permaculture Design Course?

There is a truck load of free information about permaculture today. There are videos and specialist pages, consultants to do the designing for you and associations with newsletters, field days and conferences.

Is a Course Really Helpful?

get empowered“Surely it would be faster and easier to hire a designer. The designer could design our lifestyle for us”.  Er, yes! You can get a designer but it would be handy to be able to understand how it works to how to operate the design. A permaculture design is as flexible as a bicycle it will hum along in basic mode or you can ramp it up to a higher production mode whenever you want to. [Bill Mollison]

Get Empowered

It would be wonderful to be able to steer the permaculture design as your needs change. It would be paradise to understand how the design functions, know how to connect with it and build the abundance. Yet the ultimate permaculture experience is the empowerment.

April's design for a site in Callala Bay NSW

The permaculture design course gives you more than a design.
It gives the skills and tools for empowerment.

In the earlier years of Permaculture interviews London asked: Short of starting a farm, what can we do to make our cities more sustainable?

Mollison answered: Catch the water off your roof. Grow your own food. Make your own energy. It’s insanely easy to do all that. It takes you less time to grow your food than to walk down to the supermarket to buy it. Ask any good organic gardener who mulches how much time he spends on his garden and he’ll say, “Oh, a few minutes every week.” By the time you have taken your car and driven to the supermarket, taken your foraging-trolley and collected your wild greens, and driven back home again, you’ve spent a good hour or two — plus you’ve spent a lot of money. Permaculture can be as simple as sitting down and drawing the plan then a little effort in implementing it and then some time in harvesting the rewards.

before and after permaculture design

If you have always wanted to do a full permaculture design course, this is a great way to do it. Jump in. Immerse yourself in a full permaculture retreat with local and international participants of a range of ages and backgrounds.

Winter – Perfect time to retreat and plan

students on winter PDC Bandusia 2015

Winter in Australia is chilly and mild – not freezing and dank. This is the perfect time to slow down, think deep and plan for a busy growing season. Perhaps you have already been learning heaps about Permaculture but not yet finished your PDC, this is a good chance to push through.  Retreat and Renew. Learn about practical elements of growing food, social aspects of building resilience in your community and become more self-empowered.

Upcoming Permaculture Design Course Retreat

We research, share, and teach permaculture online. Thanks for supporting us.Learn permaculture with experienced and mature elders in St. Albans near Sydney July 4th – 16th 2016.

Permaculture Sydney Institute engages only highly experienced and professional trainers for the Permaculture Design Certificate Course. All are practicing Permaculturalists deriving an income from Permaculture. Each has over 15 years experience in the movement, and vast experience in work and training. They also come highly skilled and qualified in a range of related professions and specialist areas.

Book yourself in and join us.  April Sampson-Kelly of Permaculture Visions International teaches face-to-face in a PDC only once a year.  In this Permaculture Design Course there will be the chance to learn from great mentors.

April and Snowy her hand-raised goose
April and Snowy the hand-raised goose

If you want your stay to be super comfortable then be quick to book yourself a room. If you want to connect with nature and bring a tent there is the option to camp beside the pool and join in for hearty meals.

Lots more information at http://www.permaculturesydneyinstitute.org/event/permaculture-design-certificate-course-pdc/

Bandusia - how to get there
How to get to Bandusia

 

My_Car_Future-top-slice

Transport: Driving Us Further Apart

The Tyranny of Distance

earth_sun_day_fireyThe world population grows every second.  As the density increases each of us gets physically closer to one another.  Very few of us remain are truly remote.  And yet, most of us are more reliant than ever on transport for work, goods, services, education, vacations and relationships.

Why do we travel more and travel further? Is eco-transport the solution or will expectations simply match capacity to travel. Can we change this culture of transport to cut the mileage and build true sustainability?

On Being Distant

chinese-pedlar-ming-dynasty-chicago-museum_2The more wealth a person accumulates, the more distant they become. They need more storage and display space. This bigger wealthy living space creates their physical separation from society. But this is not the only force driving the wealthy apart. The huge growth in sales for solo entertainment and exercise gadgets adds to the pressure for space.  Self-driving cars will simply encourage us to travel further and longer.  Wealthy consumers have a reducing need to share. Perhaps they will enjoy the lower risk of catching germs in public spaces and a reduced potential to be the target of any uncomfortable village gossip. But there is a serious downside to this excess.

In this hedonistic space no-one can hear you scream.

fostering a love of animals helps children develop empathy and understanding of nature.

A human being is part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. We experience ourselves, our thoughts and feelings as something separate from the rest. .. Our task must be to free ourselves from the prison ..We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if humanity is to survive. Albert Einstein, 1954

Future of Eco-Transport

Transport in the future will be more efficient not just because fuel may become more expensive but because the pollutants from each vehicle need to be cooler. Automobiles are a major contributor to climate change. So, each automobile needs to be cleaner and used more wisely. The average car sits idle, quietly depreciating, 92 percent of the time.

bikeBicycles are the most efficient form of transport and it is great how major cities like Copenhagen and London have built bicycle superhighways. Of course, public transport is easier for most commuters and freight companies. Rail is especially good for long distances. A lot of governments have been forging new public transit technologies. Shipping is the most efficient means of transporting goods and cruise ships are enjoying an era of renewal for long distance travel. Cars rank very low in transport efficiency.

Cars of the future will need to be:

  • car of futureModular. We could make cars as small as necessary and able to linked to one another as required.
  • Fully Biodegradable. Steel is biodegradable and some new plastics can be made out of very tough natural materials.
  • Durable
  • Able to fixed easily. When items are able to be fixed simply, they have a far greater chance of durability. If you break down in a rare vehicle, be prepared to wait longer for someone to know how to fix it and have the parts.
  • Classic and functional yet beautiful in design. Beauty enables a vehicle to be treasured much longer than its peak performance period.
  • Self-analysing and self-repairing.  Living modes of transport such as horses are self-repairing if well maintained.

Permaculture is Not Idyllic Country Living

The ideal permaculture home does not sit in isolation. When we are sharing and giving to family, to neighbours, to the community, to our society, we build a more peaceful world.

Culture Shift To Reduce Transport Needs

There are three ways to modify our behaviour to reduce our need to travel.
1. Be Proud – celebrate local foods and services 2. Be Creative 3. Share

1. Celebrate Local Production

pride

Local produce fits the climate so it usually has less chemical inputs, is more nutritious because it is fresher (has not been transported far) and supports local workers.

2. Creative and Inventive

Being creative means we find ways to solve the problem that have local resources. It can be as simple as finding an alternative utensil for a task rather than buying another tool imported from a foreign country.

3. Sharing

Permaculture leader, David Holmgren says: sharing a ride will double your efficiency, instantly. When we share more, we need less storage space and get better neighbours. If that’s not possible ask yourself: why live in the kind of area that people don’t appreciate sharing?

Sharing can be:sharing-over-fence

  • Formal like hiring a car or a suit, or paying for local food
  •  Informal like barter or offering a neighbour a lift, lending them a car or giving them an old bike. The building of trust can start with just a friendly cup of sugar when they have run low.
  • Semi-formalised like local exchange currency trading, business barter systems, and selling/recycling goods on eBay, gum-tree.

Sharing and giving reduces our need to travel. It builds trust within relationships, neighbourhood goodwill and peaceful communities. People who enjoy each other’s company are more likely to make fun at home together rather than feel the need to travel to see friends.

Join us in a permaculture course online or on Permaculture Design Course Retreat.

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go-home suffraget indianapolis nature history museum

More Women Than Men Grow Food

Feminine Faces Farming

April milking a cow whilst researching house cowsBruce French likes to remind us all.  “More women than men grow food“.  His experience is vast. He and his family have worked internationally to research and document a huge library of rare food plants and their uses.

Most food today is produced by industrialised farms run by economists. State-of-the-art production uses robotic tractors and drones.

Aranya supports hundreds of Permaculture farming widows in India

Farmers have a broader knowledge of the land, water, native animals and the history of pests and disease. Farmers know soil biota, fungi, plants, animals and have a keen eye on the weather. The real farmer is grounded and deeply connected to the land.

Worldwide, most farmers work on small holdings close to home. They are closely connected to their extended family. When we visualise farmers – do we see their saris, beads, skirts and loose flowing pants?

https://www.grain.org

Trending: Saris, Aprons and Straw Hats

paint-fasterIn permaculture, most of the designers, diggers, inventors, illustrators, organisers and promoters, educators and activists are women. But most of the public faces are male. Curious?

Robyn Francis and Geoff Lawton are two permaculture leaders around the same age with same start time, similar training, both dedicated, full of know-how, work and self confidence.

Yet these two world leaders enjoy very different lifestyles. Geoff travels extensively. He has set up a global team with lots of people working for him and has spent well the hard earned permaculture money on educational videos. Robin is still very much in charge of her home-site, travels to teach in poor countries and blogs about her pet pig, Polly. They both look very comfortable with their permaculture choices. The difference is huge.  Publicly, we encounter Geoff a lot more.

Why Women Love Permaculture

Women are:

  • often shy to publish press releases but will happily write for and about men
  • are the least likely to travel to conferences because they earn less and are strongly attached to their families and dependent animals
  • have their attention divided by a variety of tasks
  • accept less pay than men for their day-jobs
  • cut costs by doing menial chores, quick repairs and
  • can get engrossed in organising rather than speaking at events
  • enjoy permaculture lifestyle activities like growing and cooking food
  • nurture things, plants, their family, themselves
  • value spending time looking after their elders and young

Systemic Differences

lisa_wormfarm

Professor Stuart Hill notes: Men will set up systems. Traditionally, women will maintain them. Permaculture teacher Chris Evans of Nepan witnessed the ability of the women in the patriarchal Himalayan society to rebuild, modify and improve on a wall that was originally built by the men.

Permaculture women in wealthy sub-cultures enjoy planting and nurturing trees, pick fruit, dig swales, fix leaky downpipes, repair steps, replace the oven light, screw a hinge back into place, retrofit stuff, sew, nurse sick animals, saw and bring in the wood.  Although it is frustrating that women have not yet earned their right for equal pay, they have earned some flexibility.

Women value variety and flexibility. They are creative and innovative.
Women will nurture systems and develop incremental improvements.
When given an education they can enjoy a huge range of successes.

Women have the perfect nature to live ‘the ethical dream’. They dream of self-reliance, empowerment, being capable and feeling a little challenged. It is not a perfect dream. Life is not perfect. And they know it.

Give A Woman Your Support

Women get injured more when they ‘hit their shoulder with the shovel’. This is not just  because they are new to it. It is often because they lack mentors and training. They will stubbornly learn the ‘traditionally’ male skills by looking over a shoulder or reading books or by just trying to follow a practical post on the internet.

Join the communal effort to give women equal financial and emotional support to do courses, ask questions, build their skill base and become empowered. We at Permaculture Visions offer a 40% discount so you and your partner can study happily together.

beauty-of-thermal-mass

Solar Energy – The Oldest Power On Earth

Years of Power In Just One Day

There is more solar energy striking the earth’s surface in one and a half hours (480 EJ) than worldwide energy consumption in the year from all sources combined (430 EJ).solar-power-cut

“The question I ask myself is: what do I want to achieve? and what are all my options to get the task done? For example: when I buy a drill I am really wanting something to make a hole. Essentially, we need to
Keep the endpoint in focus and the options wide
Green Technology Engineer – Paul Kelly, Research Support at Permaculture Visions.

Wide Spectrum of Solar Opportunities

solar-rays

Solar power is abundant, free and the oldest power source known to humanity. The Sun beams a broad variety of energy waves to us.  For thousands of years humanity has used the heat, light and UV for our daily tasks.  We are enjoying an explosion of research and development as we near peak pollution and warming targets.  Along with the rise in Solar technology a number of female engineers are leading research and many mature women are able to contribute to installation and maintenance.

Boston Herald 1948 re: Dover Sun House invented by female engineer Maria Telkes.

Developing Technologies Include:

www.oorja.in

diagram: www.oorja.in
Different Solar hot water systems – bathroom water and room heating

What is the Environmental Cost of Solar Panels?

To calculate the full cost of any gadget we can do a whole of life analysis. This works out the energy cost from the time we dig the materials up to the time we dispose or recycle the materials. Research shows that a solar panels generate more energy that it took to create and many panels are lasting much longer than originally expected.

With recent developments including organic solar cells, the environmental cost is coming down. Durability and effeciency is constantly rising.

Can I Use Solar Energy Without Buying More Stuff?

Some great passive solar options include:

sustainability workshop
  • attach a conservatory or Greenhouse (made with recycled windows) to the sun-side of your home to create warm air. the trick is to keep it small to reduce the cooling air movement.
  • place mirrors in the garden to reflect light into the home. You can make sculptures out of recycled stainless steel instead of glass.
  • create a solar oven made out of reclaimed picture frames and a thickwalled box.
  • make your own light-shelves, install a waterbottle light in a dark shed
  • experiment with drying food
  • incorporate simple heat banks [like Trombe walls] into your home and office
  • hang herbs to dry in your kitchen or a simple solar dryer
  • hang your clothes to dry
  • if you live in a cold climate – build a cozy outdoor nook in the sunny corner of a tiny greenhouse. Incorporate lots of thermal mass (ie. mud-brick benches and pillars) and you can sunbathe in it on sunny days in winter.  Install a shower with a rocketstove water heater in another corner and you could spend most of your winters daytime happily in there as do many on Carraig Dulra permaculture farm in Ireland!

Here is a great list of DIY projects – Enjoy!

Learn how to integrate Solar into a Permaculture Lifestyle in a Permaculture Design Course with us Online.

Or immerse yourself in a full time two-week Permaculture design class this June at Permaculture Sydney with world-class teachers.

 

how-do-you-measure-up--lloyd

Classy Consumers Cut It

Good for Environment, Good for Me

We all care about our physical and mental health.  We can all recognise the beauty of a healthy environment. Unfortunately, there are a lot of products out there that damage the environment and our health. Consumers put constant pressure on producers to cut costs and use the cheapest materials. Only now are we seeing the true cost of plastics and other non-biodegradable resources (read on to find out how common polyester clothes are the biggest ocean polluter).

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/life/2009/03/22/general/oceans-awash-in-toxic-seas-of-plastic/
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/life/2009/03/22/general/oceans-awash-in-toxic-seas-of-plastic/

The Classy Consumer Demands Better.  This consumer is mindful of their impact. They buy less and demand responsible sourcing, durability, classic style and quality. In fact, some well made products have exceeded the consumers expectations.

citrus_butterflyNothing is Truly ‘At No Extra Cost’

Most consumers demand discount prices, pretty packaging and special extras.  The packaging that comes with our purchases is not actually free. We pay for all that packaging that we simply throw away. The cost of the packaging is in the price of the object. In addition to this hidden payment is the burden on many others to pay to rid it from the oceans.

Plastic-is-ForeverProducts and packaging made with biodegradable materials are increasingly rare. Young people are wondering how we survived before plastics. It would be nice to have a green triple bottom line: fair prices, classy looks and good for the environment. Even when I find a trustworthy company, I need to read the label, question the materials used, estimate the product durability and the capacity of the item to be re-used or re-purposed.

Our Consumption Influences Production

There are ways to avoid being a passive consumer of waste. There are questions we can ask and more choices than ever before.

  1. Plug the everyday losses. Most people have wasted money, time, energy, resources and food-waste. There are abundant weight-loss programs, pills, cosmetics, books, personal energy at the gym instead of walking to work. There are currently more overweight people in the world than starving people. To put this into perspective, more than 17 thousand people die of hunger each year.
  2. Liter of Light is a global open source movement aiming to provide ecologically sustainable and cost-free lighting for simple dwellings with thin roofs.
    plastic bottle light source: Liter of Light is a global open source movement aiming to provide ecologically sustainable and cost-free lighting for simple dwellings with thin roofs.

    Embrace free energy sources (this includes our own physical labour ie. walking, gardening, making things). Most of us enjoy free access to sunshine, wind, gravity, animals, plants, water, rain, microorganisms.

  3. Take pride. We all produce energy, ideas and things. We make heat, noise, movement, kinetic energy, movement, thinking, planning. Take pride in what we produce and check that it adds value to life.
  4. Cut the embodied waste. Many people have surplus money, wasted housing space, storage space. Then there is that pile of surplus possessions like extra bikes, unused boats, old cars, tools, furniture, clothes, shoes, books. There are mountains of gadgets thour award winning business and siteat we hoard, throw out or give as gifts. Start sharing and look to hire instead of buying. Hiring a boat, a caravan, a holiday house, an evening gown, a machine or more enables the item to be well stored, maintained and shared.
  5. Become productive (make stuff, fix things, build relationships, pick food, cook, pickle, make cider, forage, be inventive with your gifts). Do a permaculture course to learn more about cutting your waste and designing your own productive lifestyle.
jacob_magraw-mickelson image
jacob_magraw-mickelson image www.bottlecapjourney

Get Close and Personal

Rather than feeling overwhelmed with the extent of our impact, we can make a start where it counts two ways – less toxins up close and a change for a better environment. These changes include washing powder, shampoos, creams, lotions and cosmetics.

By not buying any plastic-based products we make a difference to what we put on our bodies and what washes out into the environment.

Gentle Footprints Can Wash Away

chinese-pedlar-ming-dynasty-chicago-museum_2We are all consumers. Every minute we are consuming something (energy, space, food, light, warmth).  Our footprint doesn’t have to leave a mess for the next generation to try to clean up.  If we insist on biodegradable products, our footprint can safely wash away. With mindful choices we can turn our consumption into an enriching legacy for future generations.

Am I a Silent Polluter?

lloyd-surprisedMany of us pollute the seas without even knowing. Each time we wash our clothing, micro-fibres wash out past the high-tech filters and into the sea. One of the latest and surprising research findings about plastics in the ocean is that the biggest source of the invasive pollution (worse than micro-beads from cleaning products) is polyester clothing.

It is very hard to purchase all natural fibre clothing (especially undergarments that hold things in the right places) but by buying less and using it for longer, we can make a difference.

Natural clothing fibers include:

ladybird on clover

  • Rayon (made from wood pulp)
  • Cotton
  • Bamboo (processed without heavy chemicals)
  • Linen (made from flax)
  • Hemp
  • Jute (a very coarse fiber used for things like carpets, not clothing)
Natural animal clothing fibers include:

Try to buy direct from humane farmers who care for their animals

  • Silk
  • Wool (fleece from sheep, goats, alpaca, lamas)
  • Angora (collected from Rabbits)
  • Mohair
  • Cashmere
  • leather/suede
natural fibres with natural dyes like beetroot WEA UK
Beautiful hand-printed natural fibers with natural dyes like beetroot on display by WEA students at London IPCUK – designing the world we want

 

lisa_wormfarm

My Glamorous Worm Farm

Worm Power

Cuban potting mix made with worm-farm castings
Cubans using worm-farm castings

In an ideal environment, worms can consume 4 times their own weight in food per day. Compost worms and soil worms are both powerful assets in your permaculture lifestyle. Soil worms will improve your intensive garden beds. Compost worms will speed up the recycling of food waste and many weeds.  Our most invasive weeds e.g. Anredera cordifolia are best treated in liquid manure barrels when the poultry can’t eat it all.

Compost Worms Love Leftovers

WormPowerTinTowersFeb2014-1024x633Compost worms probably originated in the deep litter of leafy forests. They love climbing into decomposing matter. They breed amorously in the dark, laying their eggs on fibrous materials (we can use recycled hessian coffee grinds). If you have coffee grinds, this is one food-type that the worms adore and the chickens should probably not eat.

Big, Bold and Beautiful Worm Farms

Domestic worm-farms don’t have to look ugly. The worms can dwell quietly inside a beautiful pot plant or a tower of tins with your favourite herbs on top.

One of our inventive permaculture course graduates, Robyn Crosland, integrated her worm-farms with herb pots and liquid manure. She uses a small tower of recycled stack-able restaurant vegetable oil drums.  Chris Nathaniel, has developed a carbon fertiliser made primarily from left-over vegetable oil.  So, a little bit of left over vegetable oil also adds power.

Robyn inserts a simple ball-tap at the base of the liquid manure tin so she can harvest the fertiliser and use it to feed the top plants but you can choose to just punch a hole and let it flow out.

By integrating the waste liquid with liquid manure section we get more fertilizer which we can then feed to the plants at the top to create a closed loop, richly productive system.

potted-worm-farm

The worm tower could also be used as the body of a scarecrow! If you develop a beautiful worm-farm, let us know! You can also integrate your worm-farm with other permaculture elements. turn your worm-farm into a scarecrow!

Learn more about permaculture with us with our permaculture design course.

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rooster-crow

Are Chickens Really Threatened by Climate Change?

The Chicken Companion

chick_eggChickens are one of the most successful species on the planet.  They have traveled the world, exhibited in shows and been pampered affectionately.  For centuries they have enjoyed the best seats, fully catered free rides on ships, planes, trains, buses, canoes and rafts. Contrary to recent reports, Chickens are likely to adapt faster to climate change than humans. They have adapted twice already during their companionship with humanity. They are set to stay.

Chickens Process Waste and Provide Perfect Protein

egg-n-sprouts

Over Ten Thousand years ago, the chicken became the first domesticated animal.  What attracted the chicken to people was the abundance of waste. Chickens don’t mind eating slightly off-meat and love maggots and other distasteful horrors. Chickens rarely compete with humans for food. They eat a wide range of food and grit. People probably decided to keep the persistent chickens because they are relatively easy to catch at night and have highly nutritious eggs. They would have seen how quick and efficient chickens are to clean the waste.

What do Chickens have that we don’t?

silkie chick

Chickens often have carers. Chickens are also opportunistic eaters and learn to adapt to dietary changes. They are persistent parents. In good conditions they will breed every year. The chicks learn quickly and are independent within a few short months. Quite often, if things go poorly in the mothering house, a chicken will simply take a short break, fraternise with her favourite rooster then start laying and sitting again. Each generation provides a chance to genetically adapt. Even old hens [ie. our 9-year-old chicken, ‘Ginger’] suddenly started laying again if the conditions are right.

Chickens wake up with purpose and sleep well.

Chickens have been bred to be docile. Many domestic animals can die from stupidity. Chickens are highly unlikely to cause themselves harm.  Chickens have been known to accidentally drown or get trapped. Nor are Chickens so gallant that they choose to die. However, Roosters have been known to nobly defend the flock.

rooster-defend-chick-300x118

Fast Movers

Chickens come originally from the dense forests of the Tropics. Scientific evidence has demonstrated that they have already adapted twice before to enable them to grow obese anchickens-weedingd to breed all year round. They can adapt again, if they are given the r. Dr Carl-Johan Rubin of Uppsala University. 

When we provide chickens with the chance to shelter in the cool sections of a food forest, they help to control the weeds, fertilise the trees and clean up fallen fruit. Their tendency to get fat makes it easy for us to catch them when we need to.

Creative Chickens Train Their Keepers

It is us, the keepers that need to adapt if we wish to continue enjoying the company of Chickens. We can devise solar passive chicken houses, give the chickens some self-determination about where to lay or hang out during the day and take time out to observe them.

chook_small_facebookDon’t just dream about it – do a permaculture course and enjoy the change.

 

 

not-what-you-have-but-how-you-use-it

Making Meaningful Connections

Permaculture Has Designed Connections

Permaculture is not about What You Have. Permaculture is about How You Connect Things.

chicken-weeds-worms-towerPermaculture is a way of thinking and designing that looks at the whole system. Permaculture is not just a collection of clever, yet separate, units.

Some people may think they are doing permaculture because they have used sine common permaculture strategies. They may be catching and storing the water. They may have created some typical permaculture elements like no-dig gardens.  Whilst permaculture may look like a collection of these ideas, it is actually a whole systems plan based on the way nature interconnects the elements.

energy flow chart

Why Plan?

When we look at the little parts we may be focused on a collection of problems. We can get trapped in the search for solutions but when we step back to examine the whole system (our whole lifestyle or community) we may actually begin to see patterns of behaviour, good and bad interactions between parts and insights into how we can link things together to optimise their function.

By building effective connections, the value of each element is enhanced.

systems_thinking

Functional Physical Relationships

King parrot
Wildlife are part of a functional system

In the garden we can easily build functional relationships between elements. We can use

  • a shade tree to shade a truck,
  • a deciduous fruit tree to provide reactive, seasonal shade for the house
  • we can allow access for the chickens to help clean up fallen fruit.
  • A pond could provide ambient light, humidity and habitat for pest-controlling creatures such dragon-flies. A pond call also be integrated into intensive gardens.
  • Mixed herbs and vegetables which can be positioned within easy reach of the occupants.
  • The pond can also be part of a total water management plan that diverts water away from the house keeping the footings and occupants dry, mould-free and secure in a more durable home.

Put simply, we link units closely by their needs and waste products.  This enables one need to be satisfied by the waste products of nearby units.

 

Functional Social Relationships

Systems thinking can also be applied to economies, networks and social relationships. Healthy regular connections with supportive contacts can build a resilient and responsive social network.  We all need validation, a sense of purpose and achievement. In permaculture we are actively creative. We can be more productive outside our standard work-space. We can all benefit from being giving and sharing. We can enjoy the peace and satisfaction of goodwill.

time_and_tide

 

renee-annabelle-cry

Anxiety and Permaculture? What’s the link?

Anxiety – Not A Merry Culture

sad-elephant-in-the-roomPermaculture (the design for a permanent culture) has the core ethics of care of people and care of the earth.  These two ethics seek to redress social and environmental ills.

Dr Terry Leahy sees clearly the link between anxiety and permaculture. Terry is presenting at our upcoming mini-conference about Permaculture in Society and Development.

Terry Leahy writes: How can it be good that one in four Australians experiences serious attacks of anxiety at one time or another in their lives? In any twelve month period 14 per cent will get anxiety attacks.

What is there to be Anxious about?

What is there to be anxious about when we live in the lucky country, surrounded by mod cons and ever-increasing wealth? The environmental catastrophe that everyone knows we are in for but nobody talks about too often. Work and economic survival in the neo-liberal economy.

have a giving spirit

Once upon a time jobs were for life if you wanted that, and there was full employment. House prices were low and government supplemented the housing market by building low-cost rental accommodation. Now a huge proportion of the population in work are doing casual jobs rather than having permanent positions. Those who are in permanent work are scared that it cannot last. House prices are crazy and there is no security in renting. Unemployment seems minor at six per cent but most people who cannot get a job do not register as unemployed, it is so hard to stay on welfare.

Add to all that the sense that the recession of 2008 has never gone away and the realization that the Australian economy still hangs on a knife-edge. People are made constantly aware that their life security depends on constantly jumping through hoops and being ready for anything.

We need an economy where people’s daily well-being does not depend on the vagaries of the global market, where the environment has priority and where you can really expect your grandchildren to live as well as you have.”

Self-Reliance versus Self-Sufficiency

bushwalk

Self-Sufficiency is rare. It has the goal of complete independence from society. In the self-sufficient culture, the sick or elderly are often left to die. Self-Reliance is different. Self reliance is a way of thinking and living that enables others to be part of the responsibility of providing for our needs by trading and sharing. The ‘Self-Reliance’ economy would involve care for the weak. Permaculture promotes self-reliance.

Keeping the Power of Feelingswe-can-do-it

When we are faced with anxieties it is hard to maintain optimism. Yet “optimism has more power than fear” (Bob Brown). Optimism is patient, organised and forgiving. Whereas, Fear is reactive, quick and often unplanned, leading to panic and regret .

Where To From Here?

Listen to your heart, your ethics and consult members of your community.  If you live our bio-region, join us in an upcoming mini-conference and workshops
Permaculture in Society and Development – Mini Conference 30th April 2016 or start do a permaculture course, build your own think thank community and enjoy a better future!

earth_repair_kit

Dark Side Of Double-Digging

Double-Digging Crudely Hits Pay Dirt but…

the ultimate aim of production must be to create a harmonious network of rich and free beingsDouble digging is a technique where you dig, put the soil to the side, dig a bit more and toss that soil into the first hole. Essentially, you are turning the soil and bugs upside down and letting their shocked, dead bodies feed the your new plantings. In thin soils (like dryland soils) you would be bringing up the subsoil and trying to turn it into top soil. Purely destructive.

Double-Digging can be Instantly Impressive

The growth on plants (and sometimes the weeds) is quick and leafy. Double digging is an old farming technique used for centuries in countries with cool climates, deep soils and a careful regime where the soil is rested for long periods to try to recover. If you are in the modern world where land is expensive and there is pressure on you to do use (no time to rest it), or you want to use the space that is close to your backdoor not far away in a forgotten back corner of your garden. Then double digging is not your best option.

There is a serious cost to double-digging. Put bluntly, double-digging does irreparable damage to your soil. Double-digging

  • kills the micro-organisms in the soil.  chicken-diggingThe dead creatures make double digging so amazingly productive. Their little bodies become instant fertiliser for the crops.
  • damages the structure of fragile soils and tempts erosion due to weathering by water and wind.
  • can bring up the useless, hard clods of subsoil unless you are digging on a rare fertile flood plain.
  • has a high risk of erosion from the moment vegetation is removed or hard-hoofed animals are put to graze. The typical Australian soil is only centimeters deep. This risk is amplified by the process of digging.
  • releases carbon into the atmosphere.

Industry is too prone to measure success in the immolate terms of cash or profit, and soil and soul can suffer in the process - L Elmhirst 1944Digging can be satisfying.

We can buy a fruit tree, dig a hole and put the tree in the ground. In a short time the tree may be fruiting and voilà we have the start of a food forest. Or do we? A real food forest captures condensation (more condensation can come to your garden than rainfall).  A Permaculture forest builds soil.  Condensation is trapped and rainfall stored in the soil.  Water is used and re-used.  Organisms are nurtured not sacrificed.  A good permaculture forest design optimises the use of natural energies and serves to increase the health of the soil.  Healthy soil gives us healthier trees and more nutritious fruit.

What Soil Really Wants

umbrella fungi North-America Badgerset farm

Good soil has 5 components:

  1. Air (digging does increase the air, but so do worms)
  2. Water (digging can increase water penetration) but if not designed well it can lead to erosion
  3. Micro-organisms (digging kills many of these). Mulching provides them habitat
  4. Nutrients (plants including weeds can mine for nutrients and make good air pockets with their long roots) Biochar can boost the nutrients in the soil as well as increase habitat for micro-organisms.
  5. rock or other growing media such as recycled brick.

Healthy soil grows in height over the years. We can see the somewhat gruesome evidence of this in ancient graveyards where the ground level has risen.

Jerry Glover
Jerry Glover displays the impressive roots of grasses versus grain

What could be more satisfying than Digging?

Simple No-dig Gardens

No-dig gardens can be designed to capture and filter the rain-water and protect the soil and micro-organisms from erosion.  No-dig gardening

  • is physically easier and faster to set up
  • suppresses weeds
  • can regenerate soil (fertile, rocky, sandy or solid clay)
  • requires less effort
  • uses waste materials and
  • evolves into a beautiful garden
our hills_hoistarium
Our abundant little no-dig garden perches on rock-solid subsoil that could not be dug by man or woman.

No dig gardening requires a little patience but the soil is regenerated, fertility is enhanced and the organisms are constantly building in numbers.

Joyous Songs of Worm Charmers

There are many traditional farming techniques where the nutrients and organisms in local forests are brought to their fields to ‘seed’ worms and nutrients into the fields to improve fertility.  Some people have turned it into a quirky sport like worm charming.

Have fun learning about healing the earth with a permaculture course.

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unless

Ecolution – Where Are You?

ecolutionThe Stages of Ecolution

At the great  EcoArts Australis 2nd National Conference, Catherine van Wilgenburg: gave an inspiring presentation entitled: ‘I have been transformed by this land’ …
the Ecolution of an artist’s practice.

Stages of an Ecolution:
1. Awareness
2. Hope that we can make a change
3. Inspiration to act
4.
Means to equip action
5. Empowerment to act

6. Feeling supported and being supportive to others

1. Aware

arts-and-educationFirstly we need to become aware of the challenges to a clean our environment and stay informed of the facts. Planet earth will go on turning without us but humanity exists only whilst the conditions are right.
Clean air, clean drinking water, nutrients from healthy soil and genetic material are vital to our survival. Each time a species dies, our complex network of genetic resources dwindle.For many people today the news is depressing. Young people are turning away from news sources and focusing on entertainment. There is also a growing disconnect between consumers and nature. The city has pushed out the native forests and wildlife and it takes a special effort for people to find a connection with nature.

2. Hopeful

148433_460301893179_546714_nThe task of educating people about the horrors of pollution is getting more difficult. When young people face the enormity of the build up of pollution from almost a decade of abuse, they feel overwhelmed. Often they succumb to a feeling of hopelessness and some think that by removing themselves from the world it will help the planet. Youth suicide due to environmental degradation is devastating for the whole community. Lets not leave young people feeling powerless, let’s equip and empower them.
Key advocates like Bob Brown understand the importance of staying optimistic. Optimism has more staying power than fear. Fear can overwhelm us but it usually fails to sustain a change. One of the most powerful tools to build our hope for the future is the immerse ourselves in nature. Go for a walk, climb a tree, nurture a plant,  tend a beehive, photograph the birds, spot the butterflies.

3. Inspired

reach

When we are driven by our feelings and passions, we are strong and resilient. An honest understanding of our feelings does not change with periods of abundance and hard times. The setting of goals comes last.

Stuart Hill urges us to be driven by our ethics and values. Then get a good understanding of our feelings and passions. From this we collect ideas, create a vision, design our lifestyle, formulate action plans and get on with the daily task of activities.

4. Equipped

afluenza-cureWe can build our skills and resources to make meaningful changes. Proven techniques are learning through immersion (eg. working on permaculture sites), courses, cultural change, education about life skills, reading up on permaculture and gathering experience on the ground.

A mentor guides inspired participants through the process of skill acquisition and research. No single course on its own can equip us. It can start the process but as we develop and find our niche, it is great to have a mentor or at least other study-buddies to enable discussion and sharing of ideas.

5. Empowered

budha citrus Permaculture Visions
Dare to be different

In this stage of the ecolution process individuals are skilled, armed with knowledge and enthusiastic about observing nature. The ecolution of a community, would have sharing at the heart of the solutions. There is great potential to collectively make significant changes.  Community projects make the flavour of a community and can build empowerment. This includes community Radio stations, newsgroups, freecycle, clothes swap,  and good old car-boot sales. The town of Tyalgum (which hosts one of the first permaculture sites) are going off grid by buying their own solar power. 

6. Supported and Supportive

supported

Collaboration is more powerful than competition.  The biggest permaculture project in the world was self-funded and driven by collaboration. People saw what permaculture could do for them (more food and water) and they learnt from their neighbours and then began to develop communal resources including rehabilitated lands into forests.

The ecolution is cyclic. When there is a need for regeneration of our ecolution we can revisit the foundations of the development process. We can renew our awareness. Then building our hope knowing that previous hope was actioned upon and had a positive outcome.

We are here to serve you. Permaculture learning with mentorship.

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ed-walta-organising

5 Ways To Get White Men Jumping.

Skeptics Adapt. Denialists Self-Destruct

ostrich
Nowhere quiet for denialist to bury head in sand.

Skepticism is essential for unbiased science. We are encouraged to scrutinise and evaluate research. But, to be the type of leader who lives in constant denial is to risk missing out on key opportunities. To go one step further and declare that climate science is no longer needed is simply madness.

Despite the swelling evidence of climate change, the bitter discomfort of soaring temperatures, the flooding rains, hungrier sharks, beaches littered with dead baby seals and other ‘bothers’, the Classic Climate Denialists continue to shelter in their dens.  They come out seasonally to tell us not to worry.

But the voices of the Climate Denial Brigade are actually getting hard to hear over the din from fire-and-flood emergency services. Even the white-collar insurance companies are scrambling for safety in an era of uncertainty from climate change.

Publicly, the Climate Denial Brigade is dominated by strong older white, conservative men. Unfortunately these same men tend to dominate the business world and seats of power.  And lately they have been menacing and actively stopping the scientists from doing their valuable independent work. It’s time for a chat. So, how do we engage this Classic Climate Denialist?

How Do we Start the Conversation?

1. Talk About The Weather

help-me2Most conversations open with a chat about the weather. Especially for those people who live in life-threatening weather systems (North America, England). Oscar Wilde once quipped that “Conversation about the weather is the last refuge of the unimaginative.”  Oscar Wilde lived in a period of climate security. What would he say now? Ask the denialist about their view on the weather.

2. Encourage that Odd ‘Moment of Reminiscing’

technology-save-us?The denialist who is still ‘saving for the rainy day” will begrudgingly enjoy spending time in the cool, climate-adapted Skeptics den.  In the day-to-day discussions with classic denialists, there are nostalgic reminisces  about the changing weather patterns. We hear : “When I was a boy it snowed at Christmas, there were some snow drifts as big as ….” but the next breath is uncomfortably silent.

The denialist doesn’t need to consider that their pollution would be degrading the planet or contributing to climate uncertainty.

Befriend The Elephant

elephant-in-the-room

To consider the link between human behaviour and climate change is to accept that our own behaviour, might have been harmful to the planet. To face our grandchildren with the knowledge that we have put a burden on them is shameful.

It takes a really big guy to accept that his life’s work is not building a better future.

It is also very challenging to recognise that any destructive practices today are going to be costly to future generations.

The climate change elephant-in-the-room is growing bigger.

3. Accentuate the Positives

An awareness of climate change can drive innovation and provide a market advantage. [But do avoid green-washing clichés eg. ‘Save the trees by using our plastic siding’. ]
This growing ‘eco-market’ is informed, genuine and astute. It keeps pushing for educated solutions eg. this type of consumer won’t just settle on having insulation, she wants recycled insulation.
If you offer a genuinely good product or service, the eco-market will hunt you down and be knocking at your company door before the product is on the market.
Befriending that Elephant-in-theworkplace can help reduce climate change pressures and lead innovation. Rather than trying to compete solely on price, a smart company can offer green-savy, ethical solutions.  Nucor Steel recycle one ton of steel every two seconds. Nucor are also developing the world’s first faster, cleaner, 99% recycled high quality steel.

4. Listen To The Heart

bee_Dalai_lama_permaculturevisionsReligion speaks to a lot of people. One the greatest challenges to the common Climate Denial Brigade is Pope Francis.
He implores followers to be guardians and stewards, not exploiters of the earth. Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori says Climate change is a moral challenge threatening the rights of the world’s poorest people and those who deny it are not using God’s gift of knowledge.
In Islam there is the basic tenet that the earth is for all beings, not humans alone.   The Dalai Lama writes that “Life must be characterized by a sense of universal responsibility, not only nation to nation and human to human, but also human to other forms of life”.  This universal belief in a higher good can be the catalyst to a deeper maturity and exploration of ethics.

Neil Young and Willie Nelson leading the change for older white men. Rolling Stone

5. Help Them Free the Change-Makers

How did the some cultures get so disconnected from nature? How did some people allow themselves to think that the planet is for them to dominant and do as they wish? Greed is a powerful demon.

If the climate denialists don’t have the power to jump up and face the demons
(the horrors of our transgressions), then they need to simply get out-of-the-way!

Encourage Denialists to become healthy skeptics and support crucial scientific research organisations. Tell them clearly when they need to step out of the way of the change-makers who will get on with the business of building a cleaner future for all of us.

Do a permaculture course with us. Get your personal mentor. Enrol and get green-savvy.

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biomimicry

Biomimicry & Permaculture Today

Janine Benysus, in her ground-breaking book Biomimicry, acknowledged Permaculture as a way to create food forests by mimicking the workings of the natural forest. The insights are still relevant. She had predicted Nature would be a powerful educational model. There are now an abundance of designs based on nature. One of these thriving design sciences is evident in the number of good mature permaculture sites worldwide.

And as we develop more observation skills, Nature becomes our patient mentor.

Revisiting Biomimicry’s Principles

Janine Benyus1: “9 Basic Principles of Biomimicry and how they work:

  1. Nature runs on sunlight. This is true of nearly every living creature, but not all.  The very rare exceptions include tubeworms in the depths of the ocean that eat chemicals released from volcanos. There are recent discoveries showing a few rare organisms do not need full sunlight. And sadly, with climate change we are witnessing the struggle of some plants to survive in full sunlight. The permaculture strategy to stack plants in a food forest is valuable here. We can fit a lot of plants into an intensive space and out-compete weeds.
  2. Epping forest, London IPUK delegates from Africa and Hong Kong marvel at the wasted abundance in a major city

    Nature uses only the energy it needs. If a creature harvests more than it needs, the harvest is not wasted. Squirrels often forget where they buried their nuts, these nuts either sprout into new trees or are eaten by other creatures. The trees benefit from this forgetful relationship.
    Most predators will kill only the weak animals in a herd. Most kill only as needed. There are always puzzling exceptions. Foxes will bury their kill and dig it up to eat later, they believe in banking. But it is difficult to see the wisdom of a predator that kills all the flock of hens without leaving some animals to reproduce. Perhaps cunning doesn’t imply planning skills as seen in Ants farming fungus or aphids.

  3. Nature fits form to function.
    When a function is needed, a form evolves: The camel evolved great nostrils to minimise water-loss. The termite uses insulation to prevent the nest from overheating. Bears and skunks burrow for comfortable hibernation. Functional design today learns fr
    om nature.
    Nature Knows How - Soft Technology
  1. Nature recycles everything.
    Energy, chemicals, and matter are used and reused by nature. Where there is desolation, very little matter is moved or transformed but where there is life there is constant change.
  2.  Nature rewards cooperation.
    bumble_bee_yellow_flowerThis is essential in the web-of-life. Many plants rely on close relationship with their pollinators. Flowers reward the bees by providing them with nectar. There are often competitors and cheats in a natural system (eg. robber bees who by-pass the stamens and raid the nectar by drilling holes in the base of the lower) but the bulk of the work is done through happy, productive relationships.
  3. Nature banks on diversity.
    Through diversity, there are many different types of creatures, with a variety of habits and needs. There is an intricate co-habitation in a rich tapestry of living organisms.
  4. we found our niche and we are filling it!Nature demands local expertise. In some species, we find local expertise, size and functional diversity in the one colony. Ants are a good example of diversity and are one of the most successful and diverse species on the planet (15–25% of the terrestrial animal biomass.[8)
  5. Nature curbs excesses from within. When there is a limit of resources, many natural processes will curb population growth. Some species are less fertile without adequate nutrients. Some species of animals can delay the implantation of a fertile embryo, enabling them to delay pregnancy until the season is more favourable.
  6. Nature taps the power of limits.
    This principle was more
    controversial at time of writing and is has mixed metaphores (a limit is not a power source) so it is difficult to qualify.
    Janine wrote:
    “real survivors are the Earth inhabitants that have lived millions of years without consuming their ecological capital, the base from which all abundance flows.” Our ecological capital includes energy, nutrients and genetic material.  Fortunately, for humanity, there a constant and free energy input from the sun, a strong life force and a rich bank of genetic material.  With careful management we can maintain a clean supply of nutrients.

permaculture_farm_Ideas-1024x601Limits create responses. Innovation such as variation and diversity is stimulated by limits.  Because farming exports nutrients, there are real limits. 

Some farming ideas can help reduce nutrient loss ie. with the use of good water management to help minimise erosion. We can build soil organically by supporting micro-fauna and flora.

An integrated system like Permaculture uses less ecological capital.  It recognises our limits helps us focus for resilience.
1Benyus, Janine (1997). Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature. New York, USA: William Morrow & Company. ISBN 978-0-688-16099-9.

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chook-sniff

Cooking and Fermenting – Ancient Pleasures

Peachy Reasons To Cook

from: Australian Museum

Why did our ancients invent fire and start cooking?
Here are three old and solid prongs in the hot debate about raw foods and cooking:

  1. Food Security
  2. Enhanced Nutritional Value
  3. Food Safety

1. Cooking for Food Security

Storing food makes life comfortable and dependable. It is really handy to be able to store your surplus foods, send some to a distant relative, trade some or have the weekend off from farming and mend some clothes. The farming of grains changed humanity and shaped the landscape. Suddenly, communities had long-term food storage of grains, tubers and dried pulses.  From this food revolution shaped our culture. Towns were founded, cities grew and supplies for adventures and wars were fueled.

The traditional methods of preserving food were:

April and the Pizza oven
Garden Prunings used for fuel at Silk Farm

Cooking foods to a temperature of 100°C for a minimum of 5 minutes will kill many food-borne disease microorganisms (ie. salmonella, e coli, campylobacter, listeria). This enables us to keep foods for longer because they do not decay as quickly.

2. Cooking for Enhanced Nutrition

The nutritional value of foods are often enhanced by cooking.

  • Heat makes many foods tastier (the sugars are released, flavours enhanced, and the fibers become more digestible.)

    cooking well geothermal copy
    Geothermal cooking well Rotorua NZ
  • Many vegetable fibers are naturally indigestible and heating and pounding helps to make them suited to human consumption.
  • The beneficial phytochemicals produced by plants such as peas and tomatoes are more readily available when cooked (but not to be cooked in carbon steel pans).
  • Most plant toxins are destroyed. Early varieties of plants such as beans originally contained lectin phytohaemagglutinin which is destroyed by cooking and fermenting.
  • Some cooking methods are more nutritious than others. Slow and sealed cooking locks in the nutrients.
  • Cooking can also destroy nutrients especially in oils and fats, making them harmful.

Not all Apples are Apples – What?

Malay Apple - Syzygium malaccense
Malay Apple

Identical apples of the same variety will rarely have the same nutritional value. Their richness of nutrients depends on the quality of the soil that the apple tree grows in.

As for nutritional value of meats, the animal’s exercise, stress levels and diet will affect the type fats and fibers in the meat. (Freely ranging animals have more nutrients and better quality fats. “Wild-animal fats are different from both farm-animal fats and processed fats, says Dewailly. Farm animals, cooped up and stuffed with agricultural grains (carbohydrates) typically have lots of solid, highly saturated fat.”

3. Cooking for Food Safety

cherub-chicago-museum_art_chicago

Many bacteria, viruses, some poisons and harmful micro-organisms lurk in our foods. This includes liver fluke (which can be transmitted by snails). Most of these threats can be killed by cooking. But not all.

Bacteria [ie. Salmonella] usually dies when cooked. Some by-products (ie.  the botulinum toxin) can be destroyed by heat but other toxins from moulds, micro-organisms, viruses or bacterial growth can still make us sick.

Good health is not so much about which foods are best to eat, or how to prepare them or what hazards to avoid. The ‘proof is in the pudding’ as long as it is a healthy mix of nutrients.

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Soft Technology Tea - Tea doesn't have to cost the earth

Hard and Soft Technologies

Can’t Live Without You

help-meTechnologies can be soft or hard and everything in between. Soft technologies are those enacted by people, e.g. knitting needles are a soft technology – they need people to be of any use. Hard technologies are the ‘physical stuff’. A fridge is a hard technology – it can function without being enacted on by people.

We use hard technologies to make things easier and faster, by reducing the number of choices for users. Hard technologies are brittle and stifle creativity. They prevent us from doing things and that is why we use them.  They are complete. Hard technologies act as filters – they structure our spaces and limit what we can do.” Jenny Mackness

Soft and Pliable Technologies

396861_10150473893378180_777400348_n-300x200
Ferrocement – a fun soft technology

Soft technologies are flexible and empower creativity. The user has to plan and orchestrate processes, which is more difficult. Soft technologies may seem simple  to produce (in retrospect) but require time, skills and observation to be used.

Evolution

bikeMixed technologies can be an intelligent conversion or enhancement of technologies. A bicycle is the perfect mixed technology. It is the most efficient form of transport known to man. It requires human energy, skill and observation to operate it. And so we Segway to the Motor car. The common car is a mixed technology.  The self-powered, self-driving car will be a hardened technology.

chicken-weeds-worms-tower

A Chicken-Worm-Tower is a mix of simple animal housing technology with good flow-management strategies (the waste from the upper level becomes food for the lower levels).  A simple pit Toilet (the old hole in the ground) is a hard technology whereas a good composting toilet is an evolved mixed technology.

Modifying Hard Technologies

A building is traditionally a hard technology but with observation and adaptations it can become a mixed technology, we can learn adapt and drive the structure by opening windows to allow breezes through, installing heavy curtains prevent air circulation and heat loss, reduce heat through window panes by applying reflective foil, or plugging drafts.

Does a Technology have to cost the Earth?

Choosing a technology requires a little bit of cost analysis beyond the financial cost.

  1. technology-save-us?What is the embedded energy in the product,
  2. how long will it last,
  3. is it able to adapt with my needs?
  4. Can it be repaired?
  5. How much waste will be generated when it breaks?
  6. Can it be dis-assembled for recycling?

A young Permaculture site is a soft technology, it requires vision, care, skill and training. The user needs to be flexible and creative. But when the mature Permaculture is designed well it becomes a harder technology. There is less work to do. Once the water management and forests are established, it is harder to manipulate or damage the environmental system and when we learn to work this technology it rewards us with food and improved habitat. Within this world we can still be creative and we have more resources to play with.

 

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garden-in-rain_Frances-Chigot_French_1928_Toledo-Museum-Glass

Top Permaculture Trees

How Can We Compare Trees?

photo taken at australian tropical foods nursery QLDAre you searching for your ultimate tree? Do you want the highest yielding, easiest to grow, most multi-functional, resilient, long living, best tasting fruit, most nutritious fruit, best timber, not-too-tall tree with fruit has no pests or disease? The search for perfection was at its height centuries ago. Our ancestors had done thousands of years of genetic selection.  But then, in the industrial era, mankind settled on a bland diet where “75 percent of the world’s food was generated from only 12 plants and five animal species”.

Our Winner Is…

mulberry-cheesecake
Mulberry Cheesecake with edible flowers

We like abundant tasty fruit from shady, low maintenance trees. Our favourite is the Mulberry (it is a shrub in cool climates).  The branches are pliable and strong weaving material. In spring, we use the branches as barriers to stop the chicken digging up our seedlings. We also make hiding places for the chickens to escape dogs or foxes during the day. It apparently has edible leaves, (although we haven’t been hungry enough yet to taste them). They make good fodder for poultry and cattle.  The timber is useful and we use mulberry as fuel in our winter fires. The Mulberry tree is very tough. It can be coppiced or pollarded and happily conforms to the shape you desire. It is self-propagating in a mulched garden and forgiving of most vandal attacks in a city-scape.

A Yummy By-Product

mulberriesMost Mulberry trees are not used for sericulture anymore (its primary farming role).  The Mulberry was carefully genetically selected for over 5000 years to feed silkworms. The biggest advantage of this fruit for our site is that these fruits do not succumb to the destructive native fruit fly. Other wildlife, especially the water dragons, love eating mulberry and will climb the trees or patiently wait for the fruit to fall. Lucky, there is plenty to share.  Be careful not to hang your washing overnight near these fruits because the droppings from flying foxes or birds will stain your clothes. Which brings us neatly into another function – Mulberry makes a fabulous natural fabric dye.

Conservationists warn against ‘Hardy’ food trees

King parrot eating pears

If you live in an area close to fragile native forest, the Mulberry isn’t your ideal candidate because the birds will eat and poop the seeds and it could possibly displace some of your native trees. But if you live in the city and trees are in short supply there, you can enjoy your visits from the birds and know that any food you grow in the city takes pressure off existing native forests which are being felled to make way for farmland.

Prefer Amazing Taste or Amazing Packaging?

pearsMulberries are sweet and juicy. But why are they not in the shops? They have a big commercial flaw. Unlike some berries, the mulberry requires dexterity to harvest it and the fruits perish quickly.  Today, most consumers choose to buy apples (often these have been stored for years).  But we could simply stop and reach up to pick the fresh fruit that grows on the corner outside old Aunt Dolly’s house.

Multi-function: a Key Permaculture Principle

What-I-love-about-treesEach Element in the design should be used and positioned to perform a range of functions. Each plant in a permaculture design provides food, timber, mulch, shelter for the garden and house, soil conditioning, water harvesting and more.

top10 trees at silk farm NSW AustraliaBeautiful FRUIT Trees:
“So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this and this gives life to thee.”

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god-of-technology

The Great Eco-Tech Divide

You can’t always get what you want!

What an amazing era of technology we live in! Super efficient technologies pop up daily. But when the average earth-user reaches out to adopt them, there’s no-one there to guide them.  It’s tough and expensive to yearn for new technologies. The pioneers have to be prepared to take an active role in implementing new technologies and providing constructive feedback.

A key permaculture principles is: Information and observation replaces energy use. The more we learn and observe, the less effort we will need to spend getting it to work.

Retro-fit nightmares

Are your thinking about adopting a new technology? Maybe it is solar air-conditioning. This is a great recent science invention based on adsorption (not absorption). Or perhaps you want to convert your conventional toilets to a compost system. Well, how do you go about it? who can advise you independent of the sales people of a particular brand or particular technology or method?

There are lots of teething problems and pitfalls in the commercialisation of the eco-technologies.  Consumers risk failing with the business that strives to help them. When we recognise the pitfalls for the businesses, we can assess them better and help them and others.

Each Eco-technology manufacturer needs to build their:

  1. supply chain security with distribution methods
  2. support network for parts
  3. expert after-sales service
  4. methods to listen and learn from user feedback
  5. installers – trained installers
  6. demonstration sites where people can touch and feel the gear before committing

Brave Pioneers

Info-replaces-EnergyThe early adopters of new technologies pay a lot of money for products that are usually only just at the adequately functional stage.
These consumers often have to

  1. write their own ‘operations manual’ and
  2. source after sales parts and
  3. make modifications or improvements are at their own risk
  4. be able to service the equipment themselves

At Permaculture Visions we were the first people in our region to set up a solar-hot-water radiator heating system. We took temperature measurements for 12 months to help provide feedback to the supplier and write our own user-guide. With some self-maintenance it is still working well.  Sadly the provider, along with many local manufacturing companies, has closed down.

Speeding up the Eco-technology uptake

Eco-technology uptake can be sped up on three levels: government, business and grass-roots.  Greater government leadership can:

  • provide regulating authorities who provide advise on national and international standards
  • listen to independent forward-thinking councils such as Clean Energy Australia,
  • support regional demonstration institutions such as Future world
  • limited and targeted subsidies can make big impacts.
Clean Energy Council Australia

Business can bridge the gap

There is a gnawing gap between displays of new technology (crowing about it) and honest appraisal and evaluation. The consumer has to know their own needs and be able to assess whether the new technology is appropriate.

If you have a head for technology, are people savvy and don’t have an investment (financial or emotional) in any particular type of technology, here is a good business opportunity for you. You could advise people on which technology would suit their needs best. You could set yourself up as an aggregator. There are some aggregators for individual technologies ie. solar but there are no aggregators for a range of eco-technologies. This can be done as a consultant or in software format.

Business and institutions need to SHOW,  EVALUATE, INFORM, SOURCE improvements and MAKE COMPARISONS.

Choices on the domestic front

Whenever we make a purchase, we are making a technological decision. If we choose an old technology, we might feel we are playing it safe – but are we really safe? When we reach out for an older, proven technology our choice has two impacts.

  1. It supports the current way of life that is not sustainable and governments are already acting to limit this technology.
  2. It fails to support technological advances unless there is a real improvement on the old technology.

The safest option is to adopt a mixture of safe and new technologies to serve our need. This is like wearing ‘a belt and braces’ to be sure the pants stay up.  Consider first the soft technology options. There are a lot of natural and traditional technologies that cost very little to set up (eg. planting deciduous trees on the sun-side to cool the house in summer, using double glazing to hold heat and allow natural light).

Tailor and Blend your technologies

Optimise your soft-technologies like permaculture and dabble intelligently in the cutting-edge eco-technology to build a path to a healthier future.

Nature Knows How - Soft Technology

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harriet

Under-Utilised Food Plants

How Good Is Your Food ?

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30% of the world’s population are suffering disease and malnutrition. Most suffer malnutrition whilst surrounded by nutritious food plants. Some drive past perfectly good food plants on our way to the shops to buy less-fresh foods. (Did you know there are thousands of edible and nutritious flowers?)

Malnutrition is a global issue

nutrient_rich_saladNew studies reveal powerful revelations about nutrition and food choices. We celebrate discoveries like ‘1 taro leaf can give enough good food to feed 3 children.’

But let’s be honest about malnutrition. This is not a third-world issue. In fact, coupled with the obesity epidemic, malnutrition could be worse in the developed nations.

It’s all about recognising a good food source when we see it.  Bruce French, founder of Food Plants Int [FPI], first noticed this disconnect in Papua New Guinea.

“It wasn’t that the locals didn’t know anything about their food plants, but there were clearly a lot more edible plants than were readily recognised” Bruce writes.

There are now some comprehensive research databases about food plants. Plants For a Future and Neglected Underutilized Species Scientific organisation have also set out to document the food plants worldwide and run international conferences.

GMO’s Can Give A Great Big Bundle of Nothing

budha citrus fruit

Modern agriculture measures success by volume and not by nutritional value. And so, mechanised farming is geared to maximise the yield. Industrial farming needs predictability and conformity yet healthy societies need variety and nutrition.

Bruce French said “when we breed for yield we get a great big bundle of nothing”.  If we want to get more than just nutrient-depleted fibre, we need to look to food species that grow happily in our bio-region and use farming techniques that care for the soil.  Crops for a future based in Malaysia researches the effects of different cropping systems and under-utilised food species.

Let Us Eat Weeds

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Ugly Choko (Sechium edule) is easy to grow & every part is edible

Bruce met a woman in Cambodia who was weeding out Momienh (Cleome gynandra). She said, “Everyone else tells me it’s a weed. They say pull it out to grow some cabbages and lettuces.” Bruce told her “Momienh is far more nutritious than western vegetables.” She was so pleased. She said, “No-one’s ever told me that before. I didn’t know. I thought it was just a local plant that was very unimportant.”

In her presentation on secrets of humble plants, botanist Gurib-Fakim shows how weeds can feed and provide medicines.

Grounds For Good Food

World Bank & UN stated that Genetic Modified crops, aiming for higher yeild, are not the way to address world hunger. What we do need is to maintain healthy soils.  Intelligent and educated farming can preserve the nutrients. Healthy Soil  a living, dynamic system.  We now know that the old subsistence farming method of ‘slashing and burning’ destroys the natural fertiliser. Nitrogen and Sulfur are lost – going up with the smoke. Only potash is left.  There is no quick answer. The methods need to fit the situation. But the best step is education. When we make nutrition our goal, we find ways to hold nutrients in the soil, in our food and cycled it back with care.

Bring in the evergreen revolution. Permaculture design invests in sustainable food growing practices in it’s ethics to care for people and care for the environment.

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afluenza-cure

Affluenza’s Ground-Breaking Cure

Affluenza can be cured

fish laugh at the sleeping fisherman who is struck with AfluenzaEveryone is affected by Affluenza. “Globally affluenza is a back up of the flow of money, resulting in a polarization of classes, and loss of economic and emotional balance.” The debilitating side-effects of Affluenza include addiction, depression, and other social disorders.  An Affluenza pandemic can even trigger war.

The biggest causes of Affluenza are:

  • faith that money buys happiness
  • reliance on self-esteem linked to economic ‘value’
  • dependence on social status
  • insatiable greed

Money doesn’t always motivate

Beatrix Potter was an excellent example of someone who was curious, engaged and motivated. She studied animals and fungi with the sole purpose of building knowledge. Her study was not financially motivated, nor was she supported by the then chauvinistic scientific community. She was motivated by her passion. Later she was motivated to achieve financial independence from her parents and she turned to writing and illustrating. When she had achieved the goal, she used her surplus money to fund conservation projects.

Step safely outside the Affluenza zoneCure for Afluenza - enjoy a bushwalk and reconnect with nature

Albert Einstein produced most of his theories without funding. Funding often traps us into doing what the funding body wants. If we want to be truly free to follow our passions, we need to set up a small income stream of our own. Aim for a smooth transition by keeping a safe income stream flowing until the new income stream is viable. List your genuine needs. Respect these needs in your effort to live more simply.

Small Steps To Create Lasting Change

Creating change by implementing small and successful steps is a fundamental Permaculture principle. When change is sudden it can have unforeseen effects. How many times do we hear about broken promises and forgotten New Year’s resolutions? We don’t hear about small successes because, on a daily basis, we all make small changes. This is not news.  Permaculture is healthy lifestyle planning with a view to working with natural energies and lowering our impact on others and the planet. Once we have the plan we simply make small changes to fit.

5 Easy Cures for Affluenza:

  1. Keeping compost worms easier than a pet mermaid
    Keeping compost worms easier than a pet mermaid

    Get a sense of Purpose by adopting a responsibility. eg. Start a garden that will flourish with your attention, care for a productive animal like a chicken or learn how to start a worm-farm or beehive

  2. Re-connect with nature. Build your survival skills and self-confidence by learning to work with nature, not against her.
  3. Be productive outside the usual day. Repair something. Make something.
  4. Immerse yourself in of gratitude. Praise others.  Say thanks when someone does something special for you. Be proud. Celebrate the invisible successes (social) as well as the visible ones. Be an active member of your family and community.  Globally, we can be proud of important successes such as the education of women and children. Share your tangible successes such as your compost heap, home-grown fruits, hand-made shopping bag.
  5. Share and Let Go. Be generous with your compassion and respect. Give away surplus. Being sensible about giving away surplus may involve repairing something so that it can be properly used and valued by someone else. (For example: why not fix that button before you pass that shirt on?)
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Compost Girl

‘To Compost Or Not To Compost’

‘Deck the Bin with Loads of Compost’

savouring-jackfruitIt’s that time of year when a lot of our best food is thrown in the bin. [A staggering 20% of food is thrown out annually.]  Thousands of dollars in nutrient wealth is lost by humanity and the environment.

The best use of left-over food is to eat it next day (hence the term ‘giving someone the cold shoulder’). The second best use is to make it into something different (meat-loaf, curries, lasagne etc). Third best use is to preserve it (freeze it, pickle it etc).  The next best use is to feed happy domestic natural recyclers chickens, worms or soldier-fly farms]. But if the food is off, the question of finding the best composting technique arises.

Healthy Compost – Good For Everyone

earth_repair_kitWho cares about the state of our soils? Most soils in urban areas are compacted, depleted, polluted and lifeless dust. Recreation areas, streets and water ways can be rich in heavy metals and pollutants. Healthy soil means healthier living for everyone.

There’s no doubt that compost is the best tool for healthy soil. It holds moisture, gives nutrients, and brings dead materials to life, it can break down many types of pollutants and correct acidity.

One cup of compost can eventually renew a whole garden.  It demonstrates the paradox of life – it can replicate itself. But very slowing, especially if you tread on it, take food or ‘weeds’ or grass clippings away or limit it’s food source (leaf litter, food scraps etc). Compost is one of those rare resource that we can’t have too much of.

Compost is also a fabulous way to reduce the amount of waste going to landfill.  When food scraps are sent to landfill, they are covered up and this causes anaerobic decomposition. “Eventually this releases methane, a greenhouse gas that is 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide”. A similar process can occur in neglected compost bins in the home.

Why the hot debate? Let’s dump the tragic stinky compost image and brush up on this life-enriching practice.

Better Compost Techniques

umbrella-fungi-North-America-badgerset-farmIn the forest, the composting system works slow and steady. On the farm, nutrients are being shipped off to market and need to be replaced quickly. In urban gardens and garbage bins, the compost is often sweating, choked by layers of random debris including deadly plastic.

In the forest, the fruits are eaten by birds, bats or other wildlife. Their manure feeds the forest plants and fungi.  A permaculture food forest that is supplying healthy food for a community needs to be managed so there is enough food for people as well as the forest and the wildlife.

In a Permaculture food forest, we aim to:

  1. cockatoo dropping a macadamia nut
    cockatoo dropping a macadamia nut

    grow fruit that is less likely to attract pests and disease. We can invest in hardy varieties by not giving the weak varieties special treatment. Mark Shephard uses this breed-them-tough attitude at New Forest Farm.  This doesn’t mean we have to abandon rare varieties, quite the opposite. We can try rare fruits and may stumble across one that suits our bio-region well and tastes great. We need to allow for losses due to experimentation in the permaculture plans.

  2. avoid composting methods that feed pests, rodents and disease. In Australia there is an indigenous pest that is spreading rapidly with climate change. The Aussie fruit maggots destroys fruit as it ripens. It has now spread south into the traditional agricultural fruit-belt of the nation. There are hundreds of food plants that do not get fruit fly – invest in these. Try something different for lunch.

Good Thermal Composting

Thermal composting kills weed seeds, has bacteria that break down many oils and synthetic chemicals including anti-worming medicines that may be found in horse manure. Hot compost hosts natural bacteria to break down the material into accessible nutrients. We need to monitor the compost temperature well to check that it is ready. If we use it when it is still too hot it will not only cook your plants it will rob them of nutrients. The plants can go yellow and look sickly. [You can perk them up with some liquid manure or worm-farm waste]. Essentially, try to keep your compost in piles while they are hot. Let the pile get burning hot and wait until it cools down before putting applying it around fruit trees.

Double The Value Of Your Compost!

Recycled Tarpauline Gardening
Healthy Gardening without chemicals

Let’s apply the Permaculture principle of multiple uses for each element in the design.  We know the compost pile can get really hot so, we can use this heat to kill a weedy patch. Hot compost can even provide some hot water. If you don’t want any of the rich nutrients to escape you can put your hot compost pile onto a recycled tarpaulin, then when it has cooled off, remove the tarp and plant into the rich soil below.

The easiest ways to compost without worry are to use a worm-farm, soldier-fly farm or sealed drum that you can rotate.

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handmade-angel-for-christmas-tree

Christmas Tree: ‘Alive and Kicking’

Bigger and better every year.

Our Christmas tree is now 10 years old and is slowly getting bigger! It is now over 2m tall.  When it outgrows the doorway it will be allowed to reside in the garden. It is an indigenous Araucaria evergreen called a Bunya Bunya.

Bring in the Christmas Tree
Bring in the Christmas Tree

Bunya Bunya’s have massive (35kg) cones of edible nuts. We must be careful never to stand under a Bunya when it is in fruit. Bunyas are an ancient species, surviving over hundreds of millions of years. But very few of these proud ancestors were stuck in a pot and harassed by summer ornaments. Our Christmas tree has character. The young leaves are bright green and there is a positive glow about the tree.  We must forgive this tree for having bent branches due to the annual decorations and an imperfect trunk due to constant traffic on the balcony where it usually resides in the ‘off-season’.

Before you rush out to buy one of these trees in time for Christmas just 8 years later, be warned! There is a reason that this tree species is an ancient survivor. Beneath the good looks is resilience (it is heavy and strong) and great self-defense strategies (it’s pretty anit-social).  Getting a Bunya Bunya to come indoors is a battle that needs armory and planning. Even after using thick clothes, eye protection and gloves, we bear the scars.  A Bunya Bunya gives nasty scratches to anything that goes near it including possums, deer, birds and festive revelers.  The plan is to bring the tree in when the days are dry. This makes it lighter to transport. We then let it have Christmas ‘drinks’ in moderation to avoid the risk of death by over-watering.

handmade-angel-for-christmas-tree‘Tis The Season Of
Consumer Power

There are workable alternatives to living in a sea of toxic plastic. This is the season of great consumer-power.  Lets enjoy supporting farmers, restorers, artists and craft-makers who make the effort to rid our world of non-recyclables and invest in ethical gifts.

Value Biological Resources

A fundamental principle of Permaculture design is to use biological resources. An investment in renewable resources such as a living tree requires only a little maintenance. Like a fine wine, it gets better as it ages. Traditionally, most people would cut or buy a cut tree (you can use a branch), bring it in and then find a use for it after Christmas. Most people have to compost there tree somewhere.

some ‘silly season’ recycled Christmas Tree ideas

Real Is Better

A real tree is a far better choice than a plastic tree. The plastic tree not only gets shabby with age, it is nearly impossible to recycle because it made of many different types of plastics and not made to be easily disassembled.

handmade-star-for-christmas-treeA simple native conifer or pine tree that is fragrant and not spiky would be an excellent investment.  If you have patience and skill, invest in a rare indigenous tree. This will give you pride and revolutionise the legendary tradition of having a real Christmas Tree.  If you want to a few sample, dig up a weedy pine sapling from beside the road. If you are feeling highly skilled and have no growing space, try a bonsai Christmas tree. Bonsai’s can live for hundreds of years.

Let’s start a fashion growing potted Christmas trees and if we succeed we can give the spares as a special future Christmas present.

have a giving spirit

Permaculture Community Garden Design

Permaculture Design For Community Garden by A. Sampson-KellyBuilding Blocks of Permaculture

There are two basic goals in a permaculture site plan: Use natural energies to increase our productivity and make the key features serve multiple functions. A permaculture design for a community garden would address some key steps to build resilience and long term success of the community garden:

  1.  Choose a site with a good position. Check there is a gentle slope.  A slope that greets the morning sun can provide lots of growing time. If there is too much sun, shade plants will help to reduce the glare.
  2. Ensure the entry has good visibility. Make signs and gates that look welcoming.
  3. Plan and implement good water filtration and re-use.
  4. Include strategically placed perennial food plants for windbreaks, privacy screens and shade in hot summer months.  A typical western community garden has a lot of annual plants. Aim to include carbon-sequestering perennials. Perennials need less maintenance. These food plants are good structural plants and last for several years and sometimes decades. The space will mature and be enhanced as it ages.
  5. Native animals and insects would be encouraged to help with pest control and increase biodiversity. Position some big trees on the far corners of the sun-less side of the site. These trees will trap condensation. They will also provide tinder for cooking, mulch for the garden, sticks for small trellises or plant ti-pis, a shady corner for nursery plants and habitat for wildlife.
  6. Encourage participants to learn to cook and eat what grows easily rather than force the landscape and climate to grow what they are in the habit of eating.  The notion of re-educating our palette can be very helpful for us to cope with climate uncertainty.

Strengthening Community Heart

Include spaces to enhance the social unity in your community garden.
Create spaces to:

  • meet andHello there! exchange ideas (this can also be a stage) Northey Street City Farm has a small outdoor stage under a mature tree.  For decades this space has served as a great space to hangout day and night.
  • share tools and enjoy harvests together
  • Entertain one another and have fun. In our recent design here for a Permaculture community garden we have made the whole site in the shape of an amphitheater. This demonstrates the true creative spirit of permaculture – to serve many functions!

Stacking The Action

A multi-functional community space like this can run events throughout the seasons and at different times of the day. This is the stacking principle taught by Bill Mollison. When we stack different plants together we utilise the vertical space and when we put things into the space at different times of the day or year, we are utilising the 4th dimension – time.

 

 

 

Ted-Trainer-Quote1

Freedom From Obsession

Who wouldn’t want freedom from economic slavery? What would a world of economic honesty look like? Many of us sing: “I OWE, I OWE IT’Schook-on-computer OF TO WORK I GO”. In reply to this mournful choir you may hear voices offering hopeful refrains. Ted Trainer urges us to explore simple living. His is an alternative to the obsessive consumer slavery.

Here’s the good news! It costs nothing to aim for lower expenditure. There is no risk of failure in our quest for freedom.  Challenging the economics of global consumption can benefit us in surprising ways.  We can stop to smell the roses, enrich our social interactions, question what we really need and reduce our waste.  Some of us will develop creative, productive habits. Others might explore green technologies. We can all build lifestyles that work toward physical and mental health and a healthier, more peaceful Earth.  “What people must see is that ecologically sane, socially responsible living is good living; that simplicity makes for an existence that is free.” – Theodore Roszak

Playful productivity

Dr Ted Trainer is a visiting Fellow chicken-diggingat the University of NSW. He invites us to go one step further than the noble pursuit for freedom from economic slavery. He suggest we turn work into fun.  Much of Ted’s work is invisible.  He explores the intricacies of social connections and aims to find ways to support inventive and creative thinkers.

On his alternative lifestyle education site at Pig-face Point, Sydney, Ted has a playful approach to food production. He shifts the focus from a sense of work to a sense of exploration and creation.

Ted says “Work doesn’t feel like work when you’re having fun”.   Part of his site was designed for fun (bridges, arches, islands, caves, etc.) and other parts have purpose (dams, rammed earth shed, cob oven, and home-made furniture from found branches.  He uses his site as a model to show people how to create an interconnected, well-resourced and equipped ‘village’ or housing complex.  Here is one of his students 3D models where we can see retrofits of whole suburbs to better connect the community, reduce waste and increase local production.demonstration model before & after peak oil

Creative adaptation

Ted is like a happy nutty professor escaped from the lab!   He has a lot of energy experiments (tidal energy, water wheels, methane gas, composting toilets, etc.) For years I had believed someone else that said that a methane converter couldn’t work in our cooler climate. Now I know that to be untrue.  Simple bio-gas chambers off composting toilets can work in warm-temperate zones.  Ted had one working off his toilet. If Ted, hadn’t bravely tried this, I wouldn’t have seen it for my eyes. He also had some low-tech stuff which demonstrated in a fun way, like a simple hose coiled to pump water as you turn it.

Essentially his experiments are not just about the individual successes or failures.  His efforts show that is worth trying new things and not just believing other people’s assertions. Ted has an inspiring attitude.  Some of Ted’s writings are available online at social sciences at University of New South Wales and at the simplicity institute.

This Video is a Ted Trainer Interview on ‘The Simpler Way’

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Get Cracking On An Egg

What good is in an egg?

Are eggs good for us and for the planet? egg n sproutsThere is a lot of debate about this and there is evidence to show that even some medical practitioners are confused about the nutritional value of eggs.

Eggs are a nutritious food. They contain 11 different vitamins and minerals in good amounts…They are also one of the few food sources of vitamin D, a nutrient many of us lack – putting ourselves at increased risk of conditions ranging from brittle bones to cancers.”

Eggs  keep you fuller for longer. This helps us go to work with a contented tummy. Go to work on an egg was an advertising slogan used by the United Kingdom’s Egg Marketing Board during the 1950s as part of more than £12 million it spent on advertising. Lets put the advertising  aside and have a look inside the modern egg.

Don’t hens produce methane?

Most land-dwelling animals, including us humans (dare we say?), produce some methaneOver 60% of total CH4 emissions come from human-related activities. [1] old_chook_n_chicks
Most people blame the cows. But are chickens contributors too?

Cows don’t have teeth to break down their food.  Cows have hardened gums, they rip at their food, drink a lot of water and then ferment the grasses in their guts. They produce ferment in their gut to increase the nutritional value of their very fibrous food. They have 4 stomach chambers to be really sure that the ferments create nutrition for them before the food is wasted.  Cows burp a lot of methane. 

Cows are vegetarian whereas chickens are omnivores. Like cows, hens don’t have teeth either but they peck tiny, almost-readily digestible amounts of food every time. The hen has a stomach like a dinosaur – she eats a bit of grit and this helps grind up the food. Hens need less water per volume of dry-food than cows, so they have less ferment.  Hens love meat in their diet as easy protein and they love to be part of a rich web of life (bugs, ants, worms, beetles and more).

Poultry are not fussy ‘foodies’

Hens will eat food-waste, garden pests chicken reap Permaculture visionsand the less palatable proteins [yucky stuff].   Hens (if trained from early life) will eat most garden weeds, food scraps, snails, insects, small snakes and moths. Sadly, they will eat small frogs, worms and beneficial insects, so we need to fence them out of areas where you will be nurturing wildlife.

Permaculture Principle: ‘Integrate Not Segregate’

cartoon duck 003
ducks and chickens like to forage

Hens want to be integrated. Their natural habitat is not a hot shed with wire fencing. Through good design and management we can reduce our own work-load (chickens will clear and eat the weeds, distribute their fertiliser and focus where ever we drop a little food for them). Of course there is a delicate balance between protection and freedom. Protecting your chickens from dogs, hawks/eagles and foxes needs to be balanced against allowing them self-determination especially in severe weather events such as wild-fire, floods or high wind.  Through intelligent design, we can provide choices for the chickens. We can offer them several protective day-shelters, water sources and safe night-time housing.  Chickens are woodland creatures, they love to hide in dense scrub, eat berries as well as insects and make baths out of dry dusty soil at the base of large trees.

Not all eggs are the same.  eggsBut even the battery-laid fresh egg is still good protein. Not all hen lifestyles are the same.  In a permaculture design, the hen is a valuable tractor, pest controller, live entertainment an incubator and companion.

The hen in a permaculture design serves a lot more functions beyond egg-laying. When birds are not stressed by over-population, enjoy a healthy diet and feel secure, they can lay for years. Some birds have been known to lay eggs after decades.

Here is a way to integrate chickens into a complex web-of-life and suits a small garden.

chicken-weeds-worms-tower

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soft, furry and intricate

Silk – The Fabric Of A Forgotten Culture

Recently we sent a request to advertise our Silkworms in a local agricultural newsletter. We received a curt rejection stating:
‘Silkworms are just pets for children…What do Silk-worms produce anyway?” 

Actually, Silkworms produce a lot more than just their famous Texan-Horn-and-Silk-armchairhigh value fabric which is strong, beautiful, soft and insulating.  Silk-worm pupae are also edible and the worms produce neat pellets of fertiliser.  Agriculturally speaking Silkworms definitely are ‘childs-play’. They and their hardy food source, carbon-building Mulberry trees, are very easy to grow and harvest. Silkworms are probably the most domesticated protein source on the planet.  The worms grow to 70 times their body size in just a few months. They are easy to handle using simple tools and require no fancy farming machinery.

chinese-pedlar-ming-dynasty-chicago-museumSilk was one of the first agricultural products known to man. The silk route facilitated trade from far eastern countries to the middle east and Europe as early as the dark ages. Whilst silk was quietly being made by farmers for Royal families in Asia, European hunters were chasing the brutal undomesticated forefathers of sheep, cows and horses.  Silk is still considered one of the best fabrics for high fashion products such as suits. In Asia, the trade secrets are heavily guarded and recent technological innovations have made it much easier to process the silk.

Why has Silk been forsaken?

  1. Fossil fuels now produce silk-substitutes such as nylonchicken-finds-worm and synthetic polyester.
  2. Fossil fuels have also changed the way we farm. Fossil fuels enable farmers to cheaply transport, shear and process high fibre yields from larger animals such as sheep.
  3. Many small products like silk, tea, cacao/chocolate and coffee beans are labour-intensive and hard to mechanise.

What’s So Great About Traditional Knowledge?

Gene’s can be altered but not created. Why let any genetic material be lost forever? Many people have fought to retain valuable genetic material in the hope that this genetic material will be valuable for future generations. Furthermore, it is easier and cheaper to keep producing living seeds than to store them in a seed-bank.  Bio-security controls also make it risky to move species from one bio-region to another. If you have a genetic strain in your bio-region , this strain has probably adapted to your area and could be hard to replace even if you were able to import it from another region.

In the same way we are losing gene material, we are also at risk of losing traditional knowledge.  Many ancient crafts, techniques and recipes are distant memories.

One of the most powerful principles of Permaculture is to build diversity. By encouraging diversity we broaden our options and we foster resilience in our own designs and in our community.  Silk farming is one little example of thousands of years of research and living in harmony with nature.

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Learning to Adapt to Climate Change?

help-meAs the tide gently rises to lap around my ankles I shuffle up the beach.  Sometimes I keep reading and simply adjust my improvised perch. I adjust easily.  But if I heard screams and saw a big wave suddenly looming I guess I would scream too then abandon everything (except a baby or my granny) and run for the trees.

What can we do to plan for climate change? Living in the ‘sunburnt’ country, Australia, a lot of our responses are ingrained into the culture. We don’t go to the beach in the heat of the day.  We squint unless we wear sunscreen, hats, sunglasses. This protective plan and now instinctive.

Right now we are sitting at the high-point of the El Nino cycle in what is predicted to be the hottest year on record. The fire season started with fury on the first day of spring and the equipment our nation shares with other nations to combat fire is still being used in southern USA at the tail end of their fire season.  The spring days have already been over 45c/113F and summer is yet to shine upon us.

At what temperature will my house become unbearable to live in? At what temperature will my shade-giving plants give up? How can I sleep more comfortably?  And what changes can I put in place without great cost? Before I trap myself  in one space all day by installing an airconditioner I need to know my options. Before I agree to a huge electricity burden and depend upon repair costs [which will simply make the planet even hotter] I’d like to explore the world’s-best sustainable, inexpensive, low-tech solutions.

      1. Temperature: People who live with high temperatures have different work and play habits. If you live in a hot dry region like Coober Pedy, you might enjoy a cool retreat underground or under your house. If you live in a humid hot space, the palms that catch breezes and other shade plants will thrive. You will aim to build up off the ground, put in breeze traps and deep eaves to shade all the walls but let the breeze through.
      2. water-on-grapesMake sure you have a good water supply. With a good permaculture design, you will catch and use any rain, condensation and underground water. When we catch water with a network of designed swales, we can cool the garden. A cool garden can be designed to direct and cool the breezes entering the home.
      3. Get the right building materials. In a dry hot region we want thick walls to block out the sun, in more humid areas we choose materials that don’t store heat through the night. Some shades can serve several functions. A shutter can be a work of art or double up as a solar dryer or fire-protection panel.  You could put the solar panel angled to the sun over the wall or window as a great power generating shade, roof or eave. With the right design you can collect breezes and provide shade.  Some plants such as grapes, choko and passionfruit are really quick to provide shade and can be cut back easily later.
      4. wishDrive your home or workspace like you would operate a ship. Set up sails to catch breezes, limit indoor heat sources ie. ovens, deflect radiated heat. Monitor and control the natural energies in the home. ie. In homes that are well insulated it might be best to keep it locked up until the afternoon. Some homes are called earth-ships because they are designed to fit with the landscape and be able to be operated to stay cool in summer and warm in winter. Some structure such as Wollongong University SBRC and Illawarra Flame House are so well designed that they are self-governing.
      5. Experiment with new living and work habits. We can try working, cooking and eating outside. It could be cheaper to install insect screens than a year of air-conditioning. Do active tasks like gardening in the cool of the evening. It can be cheaper to run a light at night than to ignore a task until winter.  Perform quieter tasks like office work during summer and active tasks in autumn.  Enjoy an old fashioned siesta to give you energy to work in the evening.
      6. Get creative and sharing. Creative minds adapt quicker and can enjoy the challenge of problem-solving. A change can feel like a holiday and our efforts today, successful or not, will help everyone in the future.

 

 

organic-gardening-and-permaculture

Difference Between Organic Gardening and Permaculture

The Permaculture garden is a lot more than an organic garden.  Intelligent design uses free, sustainable energies and resources. It is energy-wise and collaborative to minimise the impact of a site on the surrounding environment. A good permaculture design has great natural potential. It can connect neighbours. The biggest Permaculture site in the world, The Chikukwa Project, has helped the whole community.

The permaculture garden is also part of an overall lifestyle of care. You will see:

  • Focus on closing the nutrient and water loop by using waste, and reducing the dependence on inputs.
  • Creation of healthier soil and diversity of produce.Our Permaculture Design and Demonstration Site.
  • Responsibility for waste. There is an aim to eliminate waste. i.e. no excess nitrogen nor weed seed, released.
  • Variety keeps residents engaged and excited about growing their food.
  • Imitating nature by conserving the soil and water, and genetic capital. There is an intensive use of space. Plants are allowed to set seed and are inter-planted for pest control. You are unlikely to see food plants in rows. The permaculture site will look more like a food-forest with some open glades full of herbs and perennials.
  • Optimisation of natural energies, e.g. wind, dust, leaves, bird droppings.
  • Nutritious food and habitat for people AND native animals and birds.
  • experimental permaculture chickenDependence on observation. Permaculture design is a mixed technology.  Bill Mollison (co-founder of permaculture movement) said that permaculture, like a bicycle, it is adaptable and has great potential but is only as good as the user.
  • Minimal risk. If we fail at permaculture, nature simply takes over. The soil will continue to heal, the forests grow and someone else can step in to rebuild our efforts.

difference between organic gardening and Permaculture

What’s the difference between Organic Farming and Permaculture?

permaculture plans for farmsPermaculture uses organic gardening and farming practices but it goes beyond. It integrates the garden and home to create a lifestyle that impacts less on the environment.

There is a significant difference between closed and open food-production systems. In a truly closed system (one in vacuum or in space) energy is not lost it is simply transferred from one being or element to another. In a permaculture system, (which can never be fully closed), energy is ideally used by one element effectively and passed on for the benefit of the next before it leaves the system.

Organic Farming promotes the use of natural fertilisers, making use of the natural carbon cycle so that waste from plants becomes the food (fertiliser) of another. In organic farming however, as with ALL farming, minerals are being lost from the farm every time a truck load of produce is carted to market.

The Ideal Permaculture ‘Farm’ brings production of food closer to consumers and the consumer’s wastes back into the cycle. It also reduces the energy wasted in transporting the foods by producing the foods where the people are. In permaculture, the people contribute in their daily life toward the production of their food and other needs.

Soft Technology Tea - Tea doesn't have to cost the earth
Tea doesn’t have to cost the earth

When is Permaculture not Organic?

There will be times when a permaculture system is not strictly organic:

  • being adaptable as nature when we use local resources rather than imported certified organic resources
  • When we want to increase diversity by bringing in unusual plants/seeds from a non-organic plant supplier
  • Permaculture is capable of enhancing a supply and converting it to organic. for example: when we grow food-plants along polluted river or roadsides to filter out toxins and break them down to safer levels. We know we may not be able to eat these plants but we can keep them as our ‘catastrophe’ backup.

Essentially Permaculture is trying to close the energy loop by optimising what we have.

Fostering A Culture of Community Recycling

compost is pretty hot stuffThis is not usually due to an intentional use of pesticides, but often due to the use of a by-product that would otherwise be wasted. We could use old shoes as pots for plants, an old truck tyre/tire to hold the edges of a pond. Sometimes the choices are difficult and we have to do a quick cost/benefit analysis. For example: At Silk Farm we use recycled oil (to make fire starters) and the oil cans (for our simple worm-farm towers) from a non-certified organic restaurant who sometimes uses leaves and fruits from our garden. This ‘trade’ stimulates our local relationship and fosters a culture of resourcefulness.

Permaculture Can Actively Convert Resources

worm towersWe would need to weigh the benefit of a using a free local waste (ie. horse manure) versus supporting a good organic supplier who may be in another country. When we design well, the permaculture system can act as a cleanser or processing agent. Sometimes, we can transform then utilise a polluted waste (within what is realistic achievable).  In the case of the horse manure, we could ask the owner about their anti-worming medication, check that it can be broken down by high-temperature composting then go about re mediating it before using it.  Good permaculture design will aim to have a better output than input. Organic gardening may not have checks to reduce the system’s impact on the wider natural system.

Build you knowledge about permaculture by doing a permaculture design course with us.

we don't just teach we mentor

 

ed-walta-organising

Top 5 Social Skills in Permaculture Design

Permaculture has two core ethics: Care Of the Planet and Care Of People. Between these chicken-with-chicksethics is a balancing tool – the aim for fair share.

In the early decades of Permaculture the focus was on how to care for our planet – how we can keep the planet habitable by man and the species we co-exist with.  Slowly, there was a growing realisation about the importance of social aspects of Permaculture.

No matter how much care we put into our environment, we cannot allow the social structures to be degraded.  War, hunger, the ravages of climate change and industrial excess can destroy the efforts of those who care and live gently on the earth.

When I was a little girl I watched our neighbour plant a bountiful forest of rare native trees. When the forest matured her marriage broke down and she had to sell. The next owner told us how he had been given a chain saw for Christmas and within a week he had ran out of trees to cut down. I was a powerless witness to the impact of social disconnect and disharmony with nature.

These 5 Basic Social Skills in Permaculture can help build resilience in our community, enhance the reduction of waste, build peaceful solutions and support each others efforts.

  1. See the abundant connections. mentorship-richard-webbEveryday everyone has an impact.  Bill Mollison believes that every thing gardens. Now we see that every person garden because every one of us has a say in how our food is produced. (Some people choose to let machines garden the fields and manufacture their food, other people forage in a burgeoning community garden).  A great way to enrich these connections is to enable people to use the land well around them. We can design legal systems that allow use of common land, maintain solar access for natural energy systems , support efficient transport routes through better town planning, and share surplus food to eliminate the shocking waste worldwide.
  2. Build trust and foster kindness. It costs nothing to be kind. We need only a small amount of time to listen to others and connect them to resources they need. Let kindness be our instinct.  Do not let our fear of barbarians imprison us, break our real-life social connections and destroy our society. Ignore the old rules of competition and build a find new strength through collaboration. Many strong models have enjoyed collaboration. One of the most successful collaborators in the environmental movement is the Eden project in Cornwall.picking-blackberries-with-daddy
  3. Open Doors by offering support. The permaculture movement is a confident, mature and growing movement. There is a rich display of productive food forests worldwide. Find ways to help the creators of these food forests to open their doors by offering support for open days like International Permaculture Day in May. Most permaculture pioneers have built their permaculture systems on their own, they have had very few workers, very little money (which is great because we know that if they can do it alone, we can all replicate the model) and have a lot of passion. Make the effort to get to know these elders and perhaps they will mentor you.
  4. Multiple Functions for each element of your social design – in the same way a hat can be quickly used as a basket to hold fruit, we can create social tools that perform many functions. An informal meeting can enable exchange of ideas, goods, recycling waste, sharing library books, a smile and encouragement.
  5. Multiple elements for each function. If the function is to simply collect fruit, we can then find more than just the hat, we can use a coat or a rug or an apron. Another example of this concept can be applied to the typical ‘meeting’ space. Not everyone who is a valuable team member can meet in the same way, not everyone has time or patience to sit in a meeting. When we make an effort to write down the minutes/ideas and wishes we suddenly enrich the experience – we allow our aspirations to travel the world, through time and through history. Others can contribute when they are able.

If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.

Workshops bring people together, allow mentorship, exchange of ideas, fun, creativity and encouragement.

We support local workshops

micro-earthworks

Micro-Earthworks – Gentle Steps Boost Soil-Life

Without water, the soil beneath our feet is just unused nutrients and rock. If a lifeless patch is lucky, a few weeds will volunteer to try to help build soil and stop the soil from eroding away.  Throughout the world we find a strong correlation between lifeless soil and a lifeless climate. Rainfall is generated by forests. Once the forest is gone, the soil can wash or blow away and the degradation cycle begins.

Earthworks by machinery can be expensive so most of us try to manage without.  But when water management is neglected, the site struggles to reach full potential. The principles of permaculture earthworks are valuable in the preservation of soil and creation of abundance.  These basic permaculture earthworks principles help build mirco-organisms, enable plants to access the nutrients, save water and reduce erosion. We can apply these earthworks on any scale: a farm or a small patch of earth.

  1. Aim to catch and use every drop that comes to your site
  2. recognise that there are at least 3 sources of water: Condensation, Rain and underground springs
  3. Slow any potentially erosive water. This is the core value of Natural Sequence Farming.
  4. Take the water out from the gulleys and onto the ridges (this is a  powerful tool from keyline water design)
  5. Set up filters so that the water leaves you site cleaner than when it entered.
  6. Use natural energies and filters as much as possible to support your food forests. Filter, store  and transport water through the permaculture system with biological resources (rather than plastics hoses and pumps).
  7. Design with patterns (such as streamlining) to create opportunities for the water to actively maintain the direction and speed of flow.  The water will follow the design intention. It will pool and settle-out fine minerals and keep the channels productive and flowing.
  8. Ponds hold potable water, they are static and unable to evolve. Bogs and forest are more effective to release the water safely.  Once a pond is full, it can do nothing to manage the next drop. A forest is a continually working water-filter. It can even respond to a deluge. The forest floor fungi bursts, under-storey plants cup and store water, tree branches and leaves fall to protect the soil, seeds germinate. The forest is constantly adapting.

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Swales-Microearthworks

You can learn with us about how to make small, slow yet effective ways to build soil. You can enjoy learning about earthworks and have a play in some mud.

Schumaker College has raised garden beds
Schumacher College has productive raised garden beds with trenches to direct water flow and duck traffic

 

Still Not Digging It

No-dig gardening is not just the easiest way to convert compacted crusty sub-soil to lush gardens full of food. Nor was it simply the best way for us to combat an acre of vigorous grasses that grow more than 2 meters high up and over our young trees. On a global scale, No-dig gardening is the best way to grow food without releasing any carbon into the atmosphere.

Martin Crawford understands the power of no-dig gardening in his food forest. He has a beaut book Creating a Forest Garden: Working with Nature to Grow Edible Crops”

No-dig gardens at Permaculture Visions demonstration site.
No-dig gardens at Mt. Kembla Permaculture Visions demonstration site.

Learn more here about the no-dig gardening method we used over the past 20 years to build our food forest.

The no-dig garden made with cardboard provides:

  1. protection from erosion for the soil
  2. moisture trapping (if laid carefully in reverse-tile pattern).
  3. evaporation barrier
  4. carbon and organic matter
  5. worm-food
  6. composting of a waste that is often sent to landfill
  7. weed-control and conversion to worm-food
  8. food without killing soil micro-organisms
  9. habitat for soil fungi

On the down-side we do need to be careful to remove all plastic-wrap, ties and tape attached to the cardboard as this is a real threat to small animals and reptiles.

Jerusalem Artichokes sunning to improve sugars
Jerusalem Artichokes work in the no-dig gardens to break heavy soil and provide food.

Join us in an upcoming practical workshop on no-dig or simply learn with us online.