“Wisdom enables us to work with the unknown and the known. Cleverness is limited to working with the miniscule known.” Prof. Stuart Hill
Wisdom says ‘This is good! I’m happy with this’. Whereas, cleverness says ‘there’s got to be a better way’. Cleverness is constantly searching for improvement. Whilst there is a purpose in life for cleverness. There is always rest in wisdom.
Clever Permaculture Design
Permaculture Design, at the outset, aims to be clever. Long term, it aims to be wise. Permaculture design develops stablisers that enrich the resilience of our lives, enhancers that make the system abundant and flows that help speed up the transfer of energy and plug up losses.
An example: a lifestyle stabilser might be the act of taking time to support others. They may support you or others in return. An enhancer might be having a back-up plan for when something in the system fails. like having a belt as well as braces to hold up Grandpa’s pants. An example of a flow device might be catching the waste from one project and using it right where it falls. For example, we might choose to step outside to peel the carrots on a hot summer day and the chickens can catch the peelings as they land.
Step Off the Treadmill
As we age our energy descends. We shift from trying to be perpetually clever and start to gain insights and wisdom. At this critical point we can choose to enjoy a companionable relationship with nature. We know it is better to aim to be efficient than to toil until we are worn out. Collectively, the habits become our culture. Permaculture is about gently shifting our habits to create a strong and more permanent culture.
Imagine weeding every time you step into a garden? The alternative could be radical and start eating the weeds or we could be less radical and just plan to let the chickens eat the weeds then we get to eat the chicken eggs. On a social level, we can free ourselves from debt and actively seek wisdom.
One of the quickest ways to acquire some wisdom is to ask an elder. The next source is observation. Permaculture is, in essence, about observation. When we seek to observe and see connections we are actively learning from clever connections. We can track how energy can be transferred and build efficient life-style designs.
Take control of your well-being and cook for yourself. You’re worth it
Plan the menu to dish up the healthy foods you love and are in season
Check what is in the cupboard before it expires
See what is growing in your garden
Write a shopping list
Buy locally made alternatives
Make your own sauces
Buy seasonally available food
Buy whole foods that will store well
Let people serve themselves at the table
Store food correctly to reduce pests in the kitchen such as weevils and cockroaches
Eat the Leftovers in curries, pies, pasties, pasta sauces, on pizzas and in lasagna or soups.
Have a rat-proof system of feeding leftovers to your chickens in the mornings, then put remainder in a metal enclosed worm-farm at night.
Turn your scraps back into food. Grow pumpkins and tomatoes from the seed. Grow ginger, sweet potato and shallots from a small piece of the tuber.
Each morning, chickens are ready and keen to work. They strive to convert food-waste to fertiliser. Gobbling scraps and frolicking in the garden is their idea of chicken-heaven. A little training may be required to teach old chickens to try new foods. One way to start your chickens eating the food waste is to offer them scraps each morning before offering them seed. A permaculture design helps you manage your chickens. It designs spaces for them to access a lot of their needs and it uses zoning and other design tools to absorb their products such as manure, dust and noise.
Superb Self-Motivated Workers
Chickens do a lot more than just eat your scraps. Dancing a funny kind of shuffle, scratching to aerate the soil then trimming the edges of the garden paths are natural activity for chickens. Most Chickens like to bathe in a dust bath which they make for themselves. Design their space to give them access to a dusty corner. Add diatomaceous earth to keep the bugs away.
In addition to all these natural attributes, chickens will hunt. They eat snails, baby snakes and a lot of insects pests and beneficial. So, you do need to manage them. They will also eat your food before you do. How can the docile domesticated chicken be expected to know what you want to eat or keep in the garden? If they like your scraps, then you can bet they will prefer them fresh. The hens will probably like to eat your favourite herbs and veggies. You are their master, guide them well with fencing. Fencing also keeps them safe from predators like dogs and foxes.
Kryptonite for Chickens
Not all chickens like the same foods, just the same and you and me. They will most of our scraps however, there are some you should not feed to them. We never feed our hens raw egg-shell because we don’t want them to get a taste for raw egg and start eating eggs in the nests. We pop the egg-shells into a metal bowl and store it in the oven. The shells dry out and get baked in the next preheat. When we open the door to put a dish in the oven out comes the baked egg shells. They are crushed with the end of cup and more shells are put on top. Eventually we feed the lot to the hens as part of their shell grit.
Mowing is another chicken specialty. Your hens will help mow the grass. They are not super neat but if you put grain along the edges they will start there. Build your flock gradually. Start with just a couple and slowly build the numbers two by two. If you get the right ratio of chickens to grass, there will be no bare earth. Two bantam chickens can neatly graze an established lawn of 1/8 acre. However, If you notice the lawn area is suffering over the winter, simply lock them in a straw yard. As spring approaches, your hens will bound out ready to work. These animated balls of fluff fertilise your garden with their manure and feathers. Ultimately, it is clever design of the garden layout and fencing that will give you management options.
A Daily Gift
At the end of the day you might even get some of their world-loved eggs. Eggs are the best protein and conveniently delivered in their handy little hard-cased compost-able packaging – Egg shells!
If chickens were as popular as cats and dogs,
the world's food waste would be halved
With a face of peace she lay anesthetised on the operating table late at night. It was 1956 in a small regional hospital. Her gall bladder had burst. The tired surgeon had a look and was shocked at the extent of the damage. His assistant said, ‘just stitch her up and don’t worry about all the extra cleaning’. The surgeon checked the patients notes, then looked at her face. He stepped back in surprise. “Do you know this patient?” “Um, Yes, she’s the boiler-makers wife”, “No! She is not just the boiler-maker’s wife…” He was now fast at work, careful and diligent. “This woman welcomed me to her little home for Christmas lunch when I was new to this country and all alone.”
Permaculture teaches us to recognise patterns: not just in nature but also in society. We can also observe and learn from patterns of behaviour, including our small circles of friends and family. By identifying patterns we can find inventive ways to learn and adapt. We search for ways to deflect harmful energies and foster useful energies. Keep faith in yourself to find peace in your heart, your family, community and keep working toward world peace because good planets are indeed hard to find.
12 Ways Of Celebration
1. Expect Less
Less is good for each and every one of us. People who expect less get pleasantly surprised when great things happen. On the other hand, those who demand a lot in life can become focused on the little disappointments.
Having less stuff is also really good for the planet. When stuff is made, it costs us in resources. Most of these resources are finite. These resources will run out one day. When stuff is transported, it costs the earth in fuel and storage. When stuff sits in your home, it costs you in storage space, time and chemicals to clean or maintain, then it sits in a rubbish heap for thousands or millions of years. Stuff is finite. Stuff does represent wealth. Whilst one person has stuff, another misses out. It is quite OK to have less stuff.
2. Serve up your best
Healthy food can be a real treat instead of processed food. Some processed foods can stir up irritability, depression and mood swings. Healthy foods don’t have to be more expensive. But the trade-off often means that to get serve healthy, unprocessed foods you need to set aside more time for preparation.
3. Take your time
Prepare your meal with a bit of patience. Allow time to serve a meal for a special occasion. Allowing an extra 2 hours can give you time to talk to your guests, answer the phone, supervise helpers, remember where you put something etc. Avoid experimenting in the kitchen on a special day. If you are going to have a day full of time-pressures and expectations, take the pressure off yourself. Unless you have the chance to practice making that special dish in the days beforehand, be kind to yourself and serve something you know you can do well. Another strategy to give yourself more time is to invite people for an evening meal instead of lunch.
4. Have mood-enhancing food
Comfort food is wholesome, nutritious and triggers happy memories. What were your family favourites in the festive period? Find how to make them fancy, fresh and healthy.
5. Make your own ‘tradition’
It is OK to serve cold foods in a hot climate. It is OK to eat outdoors instead of in the formal dining room. If it would help, don’t be afraid to ask your friends and relatives to bring their special dish to share. If you are invited to a celebration take a tray of nibbles that can be served or kept aside for later. (e.g. a box of assorted biscuits or chocolates). You can make a new tradition. One woman runs white picnics. She invites all her friends to dress in white, bring festive food to share and a rug. She has a different location each year but dresses up tables and a small shelter. Then she takes a photo of them all dressed in white.
6. Get outside
Outdoor spaces are healing. Eating outside and in public spaces can make the celebration more peaceful. Being outdoors reduces the background noise levels and the sense of confinement. It can be cooler in hot climates and can offer more space for the throng of people you love. It is OK set up a picnic on the front lawn or local park. You might like to invite the neighbors. Outdoor eating at night-time in warm climates is cooling, fun and festival. In cold climates you can break any old habits of grumbles around the table by taking you guests to a new venue – hire a small local hall or treat the family to a restaurant meal as their gift from you. It is far less likely that people will argue in a public place.
7. Set a safe festive atmosphere
Dress up in festive clothes, get out some music, add some talking pieces to the decor and provide silly hats. Bring out some festive cheer but remember to provide plenty of water and tasty drinks. Keep the alcohol low.Get fancy glasses for lots of mocktails as fun alternatives. Ensure that food is provided before any drinks are served. Drinktank noted a clear link between the availability of alcohol and domestic violence. Limiting the supply of alcohol delayed and lowered the risk of abuse due to intoxication. Taking these steps to slow the effect of alcohol, limit the intake and provide good alternatives works to lower the risk of abuse.
8. Be the change you wish to see
Be an angel of calm. Even when you feel rushed and tired, staying rational guides anyone who wants to helps. Keeping a good temperament, even if you feel disappointed in others, allows you have healthy discussions, fix any misunderstandings and find a way to achieve happy resolutions. Essentially, when you look calm and merry, your guests are more likely to feel welcome and behave agreeably.
9. Take things off the boil
Create distractions away from heavy conversation where year old grievances might raise their ugly head. On special days guests can tolerate a little quirky revelry. Provide opportunities to play old favourites like a ball game, a sing-along or a quick board-game. As the host, you have the rare opportunity to direct conversation to safe shores.
Bring out the crackers with dad jokes. A silly joke unites people (a sophisticated joke can leave some people feeling dumb).
Play with the children, even if this means you need to turn your socks into smelly puppets. Children are our hope for a better future. Teach them to value relationships more than the presents. The young ones are young for a few special holidays, so enjoy their company.
10. Let people retreat to peace
Most people are like lions. They like to rest peacefully after eating. In fact, there is a chemical released by the brain after eating that makes us sleepy. Give people plenty of comfortable options. Encourage your guests to find a place to laze and relax. Ideally, breaking into groups can help diffuse potential arguments in a group with disparate interests or opinions.
11. Be flexible
Once the feeding frenzy is over, try to relax. You can clean the dishes when it is all over. Enjoy the chance to connect with your guests. In conclusion, if you end up with a mess but no emotional damage then you can be happy that you have achieved your goal of peace and goodwill.
12. Focus on the present
You are the one who controls your speed. Enjoy what you’re doing in the here and now. For some people, the only time they allow themselves to slow down is when they get sick. Don’t wait until you are sick to be forced to slow down. After all, It is your holiday too. Savour the happy moments.
Doing a permaculture course changed our lifestyle completely. When we first heard about Permaculture, we had a tiny family, a dog and a lawn. We began to enjoy the new challenge of learning old skills. We started fixing things, growing food, making stuff work, and savouring the small successes. Instead of buying expensive stuff we spent our time and savings on building a healthier life, growing food and connecting with the amazing people in our community.
How Does a Course Enrich Us?
Every participant of a Permaculture Design Course has different needs and wishes. Yet, everyone goes home richer with knowledge and skills. The advantage of doing a course in the company of others is that you build friendships and a support network.
A permaculture design is as flexible as a bicycle. It can hum along in basic mode or you can ramp it up to a higher production mode whenever you want to. [Bill Mollison]
Doing a permaculture course in full enables you to create a design for yourself, your family, and friends. Your permaculture design can be drive by you as your needs change. Understanding how your design functions the connections. The productivity can be scaled up or back to fit your needs. The ultimate experience to be gleamed is empowerment.
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 making a plan. A little effort is redirected from mowing to implementing the plan. Then time is spent harvesting the fruity rewards.
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.
Take time off to retreat and plan
Take time to slow down, think deep and plan for a new lifestyle. 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.
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.
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/permaculture-design-certificate/pdc-booking-form/
You could be forgiven if you thought that permaculture was about self-sufficiency. Self-sufficiency is not the idealised ‘GOOD LIFE’ as speculated in the 70’s by BBC. If you want long days of lonely, repetitive hard work and the very real risk of starvation and disease, then self-sufficiency would be for you.
Alternatively, if you are looking for a lifestyle that connects you with nature and your neighbours, boost your Self-Reliance.
In a nut-shell, Self-reliance enables empowerment through increased local production by giving, trading and/or sharing. ‘Self-Reliance’ values and cares for the weak and the elderly. Self-Reliance has the power to strengthen community connections, improve our health and the planet’s health.
Community Values You
Permaculture promotes a sense of community. The basic ethic of Caring for People drives us to build better communities. By consulting the community we design adaptable structures – physical and invisible. Physical structures include social hubs, educational and recreational areas. Invisible structures include trading centers, banking systems and news exchange facilities.
Permaculture designs for whole ‘villages’ not just individual households. This increases the efficiency of the waste cycles. Resources (physical, intellectual, social) are more immediate and usable. At best, the cycle of local production and disposal of the waste are tightly connected.
Self Reliance Grows By Sharing
Frequent exchange of little resources requires very little planning. In a busy community, resources are shared, traded and loaned. ‘Hand-me-downs’ are passed on as needed. Harvests and meals are casually shared. Valuable and timely knowledge is offered informally.
One of the most obvious features of this ‘informal’ economy is that the consumer and producer meet. They tend to be kind to one another. In his free e-book, Permaculture Strategy for the South African Villages Terry Leahy explores the power of the gift economy. The gift economy fulfills the permaculture principle of ‘working where it counts’.
In surprising contrast to this, small holdings can be highly productive and rewarding. This works especially well when the local community supports local food production directly through farmers markets.
Given that Rural suicide is significantly higher than urban, healthy relationships are the key to survival. When farmers need assistance (psychological, medical and veterinary services) help needs to be close at hand. Enriching the community bonds through localised trade helps to build bridges and understanding.
Owning a large property is huge responsibility
Large properties have heavy maintenance requirements. The cost of neglect can increase the risk of disasters such as fire. A community management team can help share this responsibility and combine resources for tree loping, noxious weeds control, soil erosion management, water pollution filtration, and emergency response.
Elders adopt the ‘benefactor’ model
Elders can share their workload whilst mentoring young people. Sharing your resources, skills and know-how creates a closer-knit community.
This is known as the ‘benefactor’ model. This model works well for Polyface farms and other small communities. As a result, a succession of skilled people in a specialist field is ensured.
Permaculture values people as well as our environment.
The Humble chicken is a Pop Icon. Today, she is one of the most successful species on earth. There are more chickens than the humans. And unlike most domesticated animals they continue thrive in the wild. As a result of our relationship with the chicken, there are now thousands of breeds of chickens. Chickens are almost as loved as cats and dogs. This success is a result of their resourceful and adaptable nature.
For a long time, chickens have been familiar with us. Whilst people may be blind to plants, but they’re not blind to furry creatures with faces. Early chickens sailed the world, traveling across the Pacific into America and beyond. Long before Europeans did. Most people know what a chicken looks like, what it eats and what it makes. In fact, more people could manage a chicken than any other farm animal. The chicken is a cheap and multifunctional tool for environmental living. It is a quick composter, a natural fertiliser producer and quick pest controller. This is how the little chicken en-graced itself it so many busy people’s lifestyle.
How did they become a Permaculture Pop Icon?
Permaculture is a tricky design concept. It is very hard to explain in a click-bite. Yet, most people can guess what goes in and what comes out of this handy little Icon. One of the basic tools for making a permaculture design is to find compatible placements for things.
When we know what goes in and what comes out, we can design for these needs. Ideally, we put an element right near the supplies it needs and we let it deliver the waste (like the golden gifts) where we can use and collect it.
The ins and outs of a simple Pop Icon
In hindsight, we can see how the example of the chicken really is clear and understandable. When we design smartly, we enable the chickens to deposit their fertiliser right where we need it. We are giving the chicken a comfortable home and grazing space that also gives the garden fertiliser, weed and pest control. The eggs are easy to collect, cool and clean.
Next Big Thing for this Pop Icon
The biggest challenge for the chicken is to become as well-loved as the cat. Unfortunately the chicken does have a major social indiscretion. She seems unable to be toilet trained. Could compost-able diapers for hand-bag chickens be the next fashion trend? If the chicken was to attain high popularity as a pet, an enormous amount of food waste would be reduced.
In fact, the chicken is poised to rise from the status of Pop Icon to an environmental Super-hero.
Most of the time, Bill Mollison smiled and lied. He led people to believe that change to a permanent culture was “embarrassingly simple” .
As a result, thousands of Australians were filled with optimism believing they could be instrumental change makers. Despite the fact that there were few demonstration sites and not much scientific evidence, a lot was invested by everyday people. And a lot of paid off.
The technical limitations of the 70s and 80s were huge. Most people didn’t know what food plants looked like, how to store rainwater in the soil, how to establish local barter systems or how to harness natural energies. But the ‘earth-carers’ of this new era moved with confidence and built a wealth of really handy information. With confidence, a movement grew to include research councils, academic clout and beautiful demonstration sites.
Unafraid Of The Unknown
Impatient and unwilling to wait for further research papers to prove the theories of permaculture, Bill encouraged people to go out and try things for themselves.
It was a brave stunt and it paid off. Without any funding or scientific rigor, many people went out and just did stuff. Although most of city projects were a mix of half-baked weekend projects and ‘so-called hippy’ social experiments, we must not forget the resounding successes in starving nations like Cuba. (Many quiet and hard working Australians like Robyn Francis and Robyn Clayfield went abroad to help people in need. And many are still there). From those bare-faced, naive Australians a gigantic world-wide movement grew.
Bill ‘Let It Go’
Success came by encouraging anyone who would listen and anyone who cared.
Ordinary people began to do extra-ordinary things.
Anyone and everyone was encouraged to try to build their observation skills, listen to nature, own homes, raise their children with different thinking and defy long held, well promoted customs and laws. Unfortunately, some of these laws and customs remain ridiculously defiant. (i.e. keeping thirsty, high maintenance lawns or not daring to hang your laundry outside). But other customs have quickly changed. Many practices such as mulching, harvesting water into tanks or rain-gardens, recycling, composting and worm-farming are now commonplace around the world.
Above all, it was this immense naive optimism that enriched millions of people’s lives. The optimism achieved mundane targets of reduced their waste whilst offering grand hopes for a better future.
Bill saw the desperate need for action and he led those willing to adapt.
Bill didn’t invent the wheel. Instead, he built the connections and handed us the steering wheel. Whilst he often acknowledged his mentors, he saw how a new set of values and design thinking could shape a new, sustainable, culture. These teachings were timely, insightful and brutally honest.
It’s Our Turn
At the Sydney National Permaculture Convergence Bill said he ‘stood on the shoulders of giants’. Perhaps his sudden rise to fame after winning the alternative Nobel Prize gave Bill super-confidence. Or perhaps it was because he enjoyed shocking people into action. Regardless of the root cause, Bill Mollison became Gladwell’s tipping-point salesman.
With his recent passing, it is now our turn to share the optimism, harvest information from the elders, support the new promoters, and continue to forge ahead.
Ownership is Ours
The 70s change-makers didn’t just follow his ideas. They were enthusiastic about them and owned the results. Yes they often failed but shared this and made continual improvements. Because the small successes were so frequent and so sweet they pushed on. Slowly but surely, the work of these lone-wolf pioneers built the huge banks of knowledge and resources we now know as permaculture.
Consequently, this wealth of information and ideas now belongs to us all. This empowerment was conceived by optimism and fed by a sense of adventure. People had food in their bellies and many surprise side-products to savour.
Empowerment is a gift that last for generations.
This empowered movement gave young people the confidence to build a better future. And many became those new change makers. As we enter each new era we need to keep our focus on empowering the young.
Permaculture is now more than just growing food in the cities to reduce pressure on existing forests. Permaculture is also about the social development needed for a sustainable relationships. Building peaceful relationships with one another and with the earth.
Since the 80s we have demonstrated how easy it is to grow food in the cities. We now turn our minds to developing the social aspects of Permaculture. This is the new frontier. With a similar spirit of hopefulness we can generate extra-ordinary action.
Finally, climate change is on the mouths of babes.
When Enough People Lead,
The Leaders Will Follow
When politicians and religions leaders such as Pope Francis start discussing the environment it is essential that we bring the gap between the enlightened elders and mainstream. Those aged aquarians, greenies, gurus and pacificists have a lot to teach us. They represent decades of failure as well as progress. Actually, it is the years of failures that are more precious than the small successes that have been adopted by mainstream (composting, pet chickens, mulching, rain-gardens, solar panels, rain-water tanks, biochar). This wealth of knowledge equips mankind to build a sensitive path to a cleaner future.
It’s Not About The Planet, It’s All About Us
Let’s be honest, the issue is not about saving the planet. This global call for action is about saving ourselves. Mankind has a very sensitive set of climate comforts. We can’t bear hotter temperatures. Most of us at sea-level but our homes don’t float. The food we eat also needs particular climate conditions. In fact, most of us only eat 12 different types of food plants. So we are enjoying a very fragile set of cultural conditions. And those conditions are indeed changing. There are very few people who continue to challenge the science. And there are many more enjoying an enriched and empowered lifestyle.
Quiet Permaculture Leaders
Permaculture leaders are usually humbly working and living on their sites. They rarely get out and would rather be designing than advocating. Being an advocate is not their strength, they are out of tune with modern propaganda. But they are very much in tune with design, efficiency and laws of nature and energy. They live by the principle of obtaining a yield. Screaming at the deaf is not something they would enjoy. But when the objectors quieten down, they can hear the singing.
Sometimes, the permaculture leaders leave their native habitat to go to convergences. They pack away their day-to-day musings, half finished projects, rare breeds and quirky experiments. They pack a bag, maybe scribble a presentation and venture out. In fact, most elders at the convergences don’t even present. You have to walk up to them and ask them about themselves. It is their curiosity in the mainstream world and trust in sharing that brings them to invest in others.
At these rare moments you get a glimpse of the philosophy behind the showcases of best practice in sustainable living. Once or twice in a decade a leader will join a permaculture convergence. It is at this moment you may get the chance to meet a real leader. Then you can see them demonstrate how permaculture can bring about positive changes in many people’s lives.
Get On Board!
Come and join the upcoming convergence in Perth, Australia in a few weeks. You can share your story and part of the solution. One of the best experiences in permaculture is being able to go and visit mature sites. There are some great tours after this convergence with rare glimpses into abundant, tested and functional permaculture gardens and homes. You will also get to meet many permaculture leaders and discover how it works in their unique bio-region.
Find out more at www.apc13.org and join us on facebook to keep up-to-date with the program and events. You can also volunteer for the event here. You can also support an elder to get to the convergence here.
In outdoor spaces the learning experience is different. The air can be refreshing and the noise stops bouncing off the walls. Being outdoors boosts our physical and mental health. Best of all, we can create an opportunity to slow down and reduces stress for students and their teachers!
Lower the Maintenance, Up the Rewards
Mesh tables positioned over narrow garden beds are a great way to reduce clean-up time and conserve precious soil. Furthermore, the garden beds are tucked away safely from accidental damage by foot-traffic. On sloped sites, the ideal position of the table is along the contour. This provides a choice of access points. In addition to the good water management and plant protection, students can choose their preferred work height.
A Safe and Secure Glade
Boundary plantings enable everyone to relax and enjoy the learning space. When we set boundaries, children feel free to wander and explore within that space. The student no longer needs to look back to the teacher for consent about where they may wander.
Design a bountiful and safe learning glade. These edges can contain a richly layered thicket of trees, shrubs, vines and tall grasses. Furthermore, edge plantings help to soften the boundary and can provide a sense of coziness and belonging. Tall edge plantings can also provide wind protection. Sissinghurst Gardens achieve a sense of enchantment and familiarity by incorporating old walls and furniture shapes in the outdoor ‘rooms’.
Education and Food – Get a Double Helping
Food defines our culture. It also unites people. Nearly everyone has opinions on foods and a curiosity about how it grows. The beauty of putting food plants in the learning environment is that they are generally safe plants. You could include useful plants that are non-toxic, non-irritant and low in allergy risk. Here is our list of permaculture plants for warm temperate zone.
Tall useful plants include sunflower, Jerusalem artichoke, Yacon, giant sage, bamboo for poles to make tents, flags, arches, trellises and garden-edge fencing. Good plant species for weaving projects include mulberry and sturdy vines such as grape-vine, kiwi-fruit, passion-flower. The garden classroom can be a great resource for learning about construction techniques of aboriginal and other traditional shelters.
There are some exciting food plants. These include native foods (bush tucker and survival foods), culinary flowers and exotic spices.
Playful spaces have viewing platforms, resting nooks, perches, undulating paths and sweeping curves. In addition to your resilient and engaging landscape, you can add toys like little bridges, solar fountains, windmills, flags, scare-crows, signs, arches, ponds with hand-pumps, cascades and Archimedes screws.
Make Your Outdoors Great
Great spaces have two vital features: function and creative flair. The functional elements include paths that run along the contour. This provides good water management, erosion control and conservation of nutrients. The functional garden harvests, absorbs and directs water. Furthermore, the beds trap silt, build soil and fertility.
Creative play enhances functionality. For instance, the functional paths can double as seating spaces for an audience. The stage can be a simple platform below. This platform can also be multi-functional. It can be used as a demonstration space, meeting point, a bird-hide, construction space (using construction plants like sunflower stems) or a work-zone.
Ultimately, the garden becomes a thriving space for creative and imaginative play.
Wicking beds can be built in large tubs, baths, barrels, ponds or raised beds with a lining. However, if you too want to avoid plastics, you can recycle an old rainwater tank, a bathtub, a wooden barrel or large old commercial food tin.
Wicking is a simple technique of letting water be sucked up as required by the plants. Think of a drinking straw. The straw works by creating a vacuum at the top. The water rises to fill that vacuum. In a similar way, the soil and plants can wick up water as they use it. All we need to do is ensure: 1. there is a constant supply of water available at the base and 2. enough wicking material to transport the water.
Good ‘ol Osmosis
Osmosis is nature’s way of transporting water through the soil and plants. Osmosis happens when we soak ourselves in a bath for a long time. Our skin gets puffy and wrinkled. Organic matter in soil soaks up the water one cell to another.
Plants transpire water during the day and the sun dries out the surface of the land. This creates a vacuum of water at the top. Soil that is rich in organic materials, can carry moisture up to the dry surface by osmosis. [Remember to use mulch to reduce water loss.]
Jeremy Yau of Sydney has lots of wicking beds because space is at a premium. And the surrounding trees give the home valuable shade in summer. Jeremy employs the permaculture principle of stacking. He has placed some wicking beds beneath tall trees in the chicken run. Some of the wicking tubs contain large shrubs. His chickens roam around the mini food jungle without being tempted to trash the plants. In fact, they get to nibble anything hanging over from the sides in a run that would normally be empty of pickings.
The most valuable feature of a garden made of wicking beds is transportability. When you relocate, you can hire some heavy lifting gear to take the garden with you or sell the garden separately.
The technique of water wicking can be used in all garden beds. However, wicking is particularly valuable for difficult areas ie. boggy soil, hard-pan soil, rock or concrete slabs.
A primary goal in a permaculture design is to reduce soil erosion and nutrient loss. This is achieved by slowing the movement of water in the landscape. The addition of wicking gardens lets the soil and plants draw their own water.
Firstly, use garden mounds, ponds and above-ground trenches to trap the rain water and allow it to seep through. Secondly, use edge materials that resist erosion but have gaps to allow water to percolate through. These materials include papier-mache, rocks and recycled loose bricks. Finally, ensure that the gardens consist of rich high organic matter because this allows wicking to occur. You can add wicking material such as old jute or hessian bags at the base of the garden beds.
The Resilient Bog
If you are lucky to have boggy soil, then you can simply build the garden beds on top. Pile on the compost, put in a chicken dome, then plant it out. The height required depends on what you wish to grow, how much it rains and how the size of the reservoir of water. Experiment with a mixture of shallow (ie. Lettuce, tomato) and deep-rooted (kale, Spinach, carrots). The water in the boggy ground below will wick up if the soil in the bed is full of rich organic material.
Purple Pear in the Hunter Valley NSW., Australia is a busy community supported agricultural farm. With years of patient composting they have created lush and abundant gardens on a boggy field. They use bathtub wicking beds for their carrot crops and use the bog-based mandala gardens for leafy greens.
Wicking Delights on Rock
Most gardeners wouldn’t dream of setting their food gardens on rock or concrete. But then, most gardeners are not as inventive or determined as food gardeners. In a permaculture design we put the food close to where we can observe its needs and readiness. So the position is partially dependent on the site conditions but mostly on the end-user’s needs.
When creating gardens on rock, choose areas where the rock is flat with a shallow basin. This dish shape will form a hanging swamp and a good lens of water for wicking. If you don’t want the path to be the pool of water, dig a small trench on the high side. Earthkeepers in Buxton NSW built many of their gardens on bedrock.
You can WOOF or make an appointment to visit Purple Pear or EarthKeepers. They are great examples of mature permaculture gardens and the hosts have decades of experience.
If you want to do a workshop on Easy earthworks join an upcoming workshop on our site.