Twilight Permaculture – Retiring Not Downhill

Happy 40th Birthday Permaculture

40 years ago the first permaculture book was published.  The design concepts by Mollison and Holmgren first appeared with Permaculture One. This humble beginning grew to influence many grass roots practices. Now is a good time to glean some of the wisdom from our elders.

Glint in Wizened Eye

Self reliant eldersPermaculture is bubbling with inspired individuals who prefer to spend time refining their little inventions rather than go out to protest in mass rallies. These folk are essentially optimistic, they enjoy developing alternatives. What unites permaculture designers is their ability to design and their pioneering spirit. Permaculture design is a patient art. And the rewards include surprising insights and meaningful connections.

Been There, Done That

Occasionally there’s a chance to see elders proudly demonstrate their unique contributions.  For 40 years these unique individuals have been passionately building the permaculture test-models.

Yes, there is bound to be a pile of flops and discards, but there are many gems of great work.  Their fledgling design projects integrating solar energy, rocket-stoves, rain-gardens, composting toilets, worm-farms, rain-water tanks, mulch and yoghurt or Kombucha have become household realities.

Judith Collins of EarthKeepers, Companion Planting Author
Judith Collins of EarthKeepers, Companion Plants Author

After 40 years some of these glorious pioneers may have slowed down. Some, such as the eternal optimist, Bill Mollison has returned to mother nature. The younger, David Holmgren has now matured into co-operative living.
Holmgren and his partner, Sue, have cleverly downsized the personal space and expanded their options by sharing the rewards and ongoing physical work of their productive home site.

Some of the permaculture-designed pioneering communities, like Malaney, have now installed their own graveyards.

The beauty of permaculture design lies in its ability to adapt and respond to change. How do these elders adapt in their twilight years?


We can all list the things that we want to retire FROM, but did you know it is vital for our physical and mental health to know what we are retiring TO?

Permaculture, even in our twilight years, offers decades enriched with meaningful employment.  “Permaculture gives us a toolkit for moving from a culture of fear and scarcity to one of love and abundance” Toby Hemenway

Passing on know how

Janet Millington defined her twilight period as her personal energy descent period. She pioneered wicking beds with integrated worm-farms to intensify food production and waste management close to the kitchen door without any back strain. She and Carolyn Nuttall built a rich legacy of school permaculture programs.

Environmentalist and longtime host of CBC’s The Nature of Things David Suzuki, at the age of 79, writes that “‘it’s time to admit you’re an elder and start getting on with doing what elders should be doing, which is speaking out’”.  David Suzuki talks about living in his twilight years. In fact, every elder in our community has a wealth of experience directly relevant to our community and our unique bio-region.

Take Stock

Permaculture designers around the planet are busy.  They are the type of people who would rather do stuff rather than talk about it. For them, there isn’t a lot of time to talk about it because they feel a strong sense of urgency to get on and build a better culture. They want to show it can be done.

But herein lies the challenge. In order to demonstrate a happy alternative to consumerism, we all need to talk about it. At least, sometimes.

If you are one of the lucky ones who can join us at a Permaculture Convergences enjoy the rare chance to sit and listen. Grab and elder and quiz them about their failures.  Invest time to travel about to see what the pioneers have put into practice and how they have designed their twilight lifestyle.

Soon we are leading a grand Permaculture Tour. Come and join us in this one-off  opportunity.

Solar Still Waiting

Soaring Heat In the Kitchen, Abundant Solar Outside

Home-grown bananas in solar baker

Temperatures reached a record 47c/116F in Sydney, Australia in January.  But the second shock was the spike in cost of gas and electricity. The sun burns bright overhead while people turn on the air-conditioning in their kitchen.  Despite the impressive range of affordable solar cook-tops and ovens, few people use solar ovens. What is really holding this technology back?

Super Solar Ovens

Worlds largest solar cooker feeds 20 thousand people per day.

Cheap as Chips

Solar Ovens are dirt cheap. Well, almost. They are as cheap as straw (for insulation), two panes of glass and a a sturdy box. They are popular in countries such as India because they are clean and free to run.  You don’t need a chimney, fossil fuels or cow dung to fuel it. A Solar oven wastes nothing – the slow cook version does not waste a single drop of water or spice.  The nutrients and flavours are sealed in.

Our first solar oven cost more in shipping than in the actual price. Seems we were ‘first wave’ solar-cookers in our shady village. (It seems were both first and last wave too).  We paid about $250 18 years ago – at that price each meal cooked has cost less than 5 cents. If you are off-grid, this technology can pay back in just a few uses.

We now have a handful of different versions including the dangerous parabolic which burnt a hole in a wooden planter [photo below], a lightweight portable and the tubular baker. But I still prefer the old faithful that has survived being caught in the rain and filled up with water.

Solar ovens are durable, free to run, simple to make and easy to use and repair.
Best of all solar cooked food is flavoursome and nutritious.

Our Cultural Addiction to Piped Energy


Whilst ever we depend on a switch and convenient appliances, we are dependent on large scale innovation. If we step outside to try new technologies in the raw we get the chance to fuel our creative side.

The more powerful versions of this technology are rough, hot and glaring. But here is a great opportunity for the modern celebrity chefs and entrepreneurs to cook up a brighter future for everyone.

Set Your Goals Last

Build Values First

Stuart Hill urges us to be driven by our ethics and values, feelings and passions rather than particular goals or resolutions.  By revisiting our ethics and values at the end of the year we can keep the positive fire burning.

By listening to our feelings and passions we give ourselves the energy to create a better future. Though acknowledging our passion we formulate a vision, purpose. Once our passion is invested in our future, we can find energy to develop goals, and sustain the plans and activities.

  1. Self reliant eldersAwaken your ethics and values
  2. Acknowledge your feelings and passions
  3. Research your ideas, visions and design (doing this permaculture course is a critical tool in developing systems thinking and building your own design)
  4. Create action plans
  5. Finally start the regular activities that will help you realise your goals. At the end of each day, set goals that help achieve the actions you set in your plan.

Hill urges us to:  “Act from your core/essential self – empowered, aware, visionary, principled, passionate, loving, spontaneous, fully in the present (contextual) – vs. your patterned, fearful, compensatory, compromising, de-contextual selves”

Core Values for Social Permaculture Design

Every person is different. No two permaculture designers will have the same passions and goals. Here are two different applications of Hills suggestion to act from your core self:

  • Ana* knows her core self [empowered, aware, visionary, principled, passionate, loving, spontaneous, fully in the present] involves working with rare fruits and edible flowers. She builds skills in growing food plants. She also develops her catering projects, observing what drives people to try new foods. She searches for the best way to harvest and cook these unusual foods. Ana strives to find way to integrate rare foods into household gardens and onto the plate.   Finally, she aims to build community awareness.  Whenever Ana has a set-back (like the time vandals broke into the nursery to destroy plants) she listens to her core passion. This gives her energy to mend flaws in her action plan.
  • Zane* knows his core self [empowered, aware, visionary, principled, passionate, loving, spontaneous, fully in the present] loves working with people. He listens and helps them relieve their hunger by helping them to grow food, build water catchment and storage and make efficient stoves. There are more than a few daunting barriers in achieving the long-term goals of this project. The barriers include social perceptions, land access and resources (like seeds and access to water).  Over the years, Chris has some devastating set-backs.  Sadly, the setbacks include natural disasters. He knows these disasters will strike because the projects are on marginal land. Revisiting his core passion gives him some solace. Through re-visiting his core he recharges his passion. With renewed passion he strengthens his action plans.

[*Names have been changed for privacy reasons.]

Discover your core principles and enjoy the discovery.

Happy new year from us at Permaculture Visions.

Worm Farms of the Great Indoors

Urban Permaculture Adventures

Growing up in a gorgeous permaculture garden builds some unusual adult expectations. Our children played with worms, cuddled chickens, climbed trees, nibbled on flowers and sometimes fell into patches of stinging nettle. When our son grew up he was shocked by the city waste and frustrated that he could no longer compost.  Confined to a totally indoor existence, his idea for an indoor worm-farm was conceived.

Our first worm-farm towers were developed by one of our permaculture design course graduates, Robyn Crossland. The worm-farm adventure is ever developing.

Waste in a Tiny Space

We looked at old worm-farm systems which are pretty cool and decided to create a tiny version. The coffee-addict indoor worm farm was the smallest prototype.  Then we up-sized to an old kitchen bin.

Even though we have plenty of space outdoors, we didn’t expect the indoor worm-farm to be so convenient. We loved it. The waste items that are not suitable for the poultry (such as banana peels) go directly into the worm-farm.  So, we kept one for ourselves.

Do Worms Like being Indoors?

Worms like a steady temperature, they don’t like hot black housing in the full sun. Worms instinctively hide from sunlight. Nor do they thrive in cold mouldy places. Compost worms, [Perionyx Excavatus and friends] come from the tropical treetops. Our great indoors are cosy for worms, especially in winter.

Are Worms Smelly?

Worms don’t smell bad.  Rotting food smells bad. Imagine having house-mates who not put the garbage out until it gets smelly. How could worms living in the food waste possibly be worse than that?  The first challenge is to learn what can be put into the worm-farm.  Worms can eat anything that was once living, but they prefer not to eat citrus or onion. Meat can be a problem because it goes off quickly. So leave out meat, onion and citrus and add some shredded paper and cotton rags every now and then to reduce wetness.

What Do I Need?

For a Simple Worm-farm You need:

  • a fully sealed but not air-tight container. It is important to be able to keep out other creatures (like cockroaches, flies or vinegar flies)
  • Use a recycled strong plastic bag (grain bag) with small holes cut into it for drainage.  This protect the worms from accidental drowning
  • Position an upturned pot or two to support the bag off the base. This provides space at the bottom of the farm where fertilizer-rich fluid may collect. Also, the pots provide something for any lost worms to climb back up.
  • Include some bedding inside the bag. Bedding is usually an open-weave fabric. It holds the worm eggs. You can use hessian or a loose weave rag, preferably no nylon or plastics, only natural materials.
  1. What Do I Need To Do?

    Feed the worms kitchen scraps and torn plain paper. Worms love coffee grinds and banana peels. If you are going on a vacation, fill up the bin with fallen leaves and weeds from the street or your potted plants.

  2. Take the worm bin outside periodically to tip out the liquid build-up.  How often depends on how much liquid you put into the farm. We check ours each week. We don’t put any liquid into the farm, just coffee grinds and banana peels.
  3. Sort out the worms from the castings outside or in a bathroom as it can get messy. Use the castings for potting mixture for more potted plants or feed the castings and liquid manure on a street tree or in a local park.

Advanced Potted Worm-farm system

layers in potted worm farm tower invented by robyn crosslandFollow the instructions for a Basic Worm farm then add plants on top. You need:

  • a tight fitting pot to sit on top with potted herbs and
  • a feeding tube that runs all the way down the pot plant and to a hole to the worms in the next section down.
  • add a cap over the feeding tube (you can use an upturned pot)

Are Worms Fast? Yes But…

Worms are not the fastest composting organism but they are low risk. If you want fast composting, make a black soldier larvae farm.  [Don’t have a larvae farm indoors without really strict hygiene controls].

What Kills Worms?

Like everything else, neglect is one of the biggest killers for pets. Indoor worms are likely to die from too much liquid, too little food or too much food. But there is one killer lurking in many household kitchens – insecticide. Poisons would account for sudden deaths. Avoid sprays and cleaners entering the worm bin.

Happy Worming!

small indoor worm-farm made from old water filter

Great Green Business


Hard Look At Very Personal Business

Permaculture strives to design a healthier environment and society. Regenerative farming has come along quickly but  social permaculture designs have been a bit slower to emerge.  Peaceful societies are less destructive to the environment. Good business models, valued workers and clean work environments are good for everyone.

New Models

One fundamental permaculture strategy is to make small changes where they are most effective.  Lets take a peek at an industry that could do with a little greening: the beauty industry.  The beauty industry touches everyone. It has been slow to move on social and environmental issues yet, these small changes can have a huge effect.  Freeing people of toxic chemicals, and poor work conditions has resounding benefits.

eco-hair studio business model

Ecological and Social Style

In salons around the world, customers pay a small fortune to look good. Unfortunately the average hair stylist is poorly paid, often earning less than the minimum wage. This glamorous carer rarely gets a meal break, is standing all day and exposed to horrendous chemicals including formaldehyde. The beauty industry is not famous for the way it treats the workers or the chemicals is pours into the environment. But change is in.

Lloyd KK Eco-Studio Stylist and owner Lloyd KK took the plunge and opened the first eco-hair studio in his region.  He “wanted to use chemicals that have a low environmental impact, that were plant-based and renewable. ” He noticed “the green chemistry colours also have a shinier, more natural feeling results…Previously, I used to have chemical reactions to other colours, ie itchy hands/skin, skin peeling and puffy itchy face. These colours do not cause any of these reactions”

How To Avoid ‘Environmental’ Smoke and Mirrors

retrofitting saves dollar and wasteFor the rare business owner who wants to improve their environmental credentials there are very few models to follow. On the other hand, there are a lot of ‘green’ imposters.

Firstly, Lloyd set about retrofitting old furniture, researched composting systems and trailed low-toxic products. Then he researched and assessed environmental costs of consumables and how to recycle them. He also chose green power and low-cost lighting. Finally he set up systems to minimise waste in the business.

In summary, the process of greening traditional businesses like the hair industry will become easier. As customers demand ecological responsibility and value healthy practice, the suppliers will adapt.

For businesses wanting to lead the change and reduce environmental costs we recommend international Quality Environmental Systems [EMS]. You can achieve self-assessment or simply use the system as a guide.

Ultimately, being prepared to up-cycle, retrofit and adapt equipment will reduce environmental costs, build a better culture and save your business money.


Design Theory Into The Zones

Zones for a house on a hilltop

Where is it?

confused roosterDo you ever get frustrated because you can’t find something? How many times have you wished there was a better system? Have you struggled to complete a task because the tools or resources are not at hand?  Ever wished to add a little something but it is too far away? Are you always feeling for your keys in the bottom of your bag only to find forgotten debris instead? Is there sometimes a touch-of-confusion at work making it hard to get stuff done?

If only everything was in its place. But wait… how do we know where the right place is? This is where it pays to do a little bit of designing.  Permaculture Zoning gives you the design tools to make life more comfortable and work more efficiently. We have a tool that can sort things into zones according to how much we need them, and in return, how much they need our care.

Tea herbs from the gardenSome things need to be close-by because we use them often. For example: tea herbs near the cups, kindling next to the fire, or pens on the desk. Some things need a watchful eye but need some space in order to thrive (like a children’s play area, or the berry patch).  Other things may prefer not to be bumped or tampered with so they do well in an area that is typically neglected, like wine in a cellar. These also include a nesting robin, or the soft yoga mat in your sports bag.

Zones for Efficiency

There are a few basic factors to help us determine which is the right zone for something. Firstly, ask how much observation does the item need? Secondly, ask how frequently am I going to it? If the answer is often, put it nearby. If the answers are rarely, put it far away.

This design tool is super flexible. You can apply the zoning tool to your design for a farm, a home, a community garden or a work station. You can even use it to pack your luggage.

When Bill Mollison was introducing the concept of Zoning as a design tool, he talked about having food plants that were needed regularly near the kitchen door.

These include herbs and plants like lettuces and kale that we can clip each day rather than rip it out of the ground.  Zone thinking can also be applied to the design of your bag. Those items that are needed regularly need a pocket up high to keep them accessible. Whereas, things that are rarely used but handy in emergencies can dwell in the outer zones.

Applying Permaculture Zone Theory To Design Of A Bag

Get Your Nest of Zones

Zones don’t have to be separated. But compartments, pockets, or fences are often useful. In zone 1 we keep regularly used and valuable items. In a bag these items might be your keys, phone, medicine or photo of your favourite chicken.  On the farm, Zone 1 might hold your dog’s box, your pick-up truck, your trusty tools and your favourite wet weather coat. In Zone 2 you will find intensively grown food-plants and the smaller species of fruiting shrubs. The hen-house might sit in this zone to help manage weeds in the orchard and provide regular eggs. Bigger trees, pumpkin vines and corn patches site well in Zone 3 and larger farm animals go well in the Zone 3 or 4 area. Zone 5 is a great space to dedicate to wildlife which thrives on careful management and minimal disturbance.

Zones according to use and micro-climates. Our design for yoga retreat in Otford

What about Zone 0 you may ask?

Self reliant eldersZone 0 is traditionally indoors or in your head where all those secret recipes dwell and where you hone your powerful ethics and motivation. But In a house design or on a farm, zone 0 can also contain ferments, indoor production and work stations, the office and first aid.

As you can see, there are a lot of design tools taught through Permaculture. Learn more design tools with a Permaculture Design Course. We offer courses online and on-site.



Ferment Your Future & Build Nutrition

dancing ferments

Seriously Good Ferments

Did you know the nutritional value of many foods improves with fermentation? Ferments cut toxic compounds, add flavour and increase beneficial gut flora. It seems there are ample reasons to enjoy fermenting your food.

Ferments ooze abundantly in the wild.  Yet only a diligent cook could invent a brew fit for consumption. Early brew developers were clever, patient, organised and observant.

Ella with her Kombucha
Ella loves Kombucha

Recent medical research confirms the old wisdom of ferments in our diet, especially for colon health. Even Beer, in moderation, can increase good cholesterol. 

Unfortunately, few people today know how to brew their own.  Yet traditional brews bubble in every corner of the world.  Aboriginal Australians use honey and Banksia.  In freezing Alaska, fermented meat is big on the menu. Pulque, in Mexico, takes an underwhelming cactus juice and turns it magically into a popular drink, rich in vitamins.

Reigning Preservatives

Consider the remarkable longevity of a bottle of wine compared to a flask of grape juice. Although alcohol has served humanity long, the abuse of alcohol has given ferments a bad rap. In addition to this poor reputation, new inventions began competing. In recent decades, chemical preservatives and canning ended the popularity of fermentation. Yet, ferments exist despite the fact that they not required.

Ferments survive because they are enjoyed!

Surprisingly, a number of ferments are high on the average shopping list.  For many people in the western world, the cultures and ferments of choice are bread, alcohol (beer, wine, cider, Perry, liquors), vinegar, tea, coffee chocolate, olives, yogurt, bread and cheese.

Science of Ferments

brewing fermentsUltimately, fermentation enriches food with essential amino acids, vitamins, newly available minerals and bio-active compounds.   For example, Rhizopus oligosporus the active culture in Tempe, a soy cheese,  increases the vitamins like niacin and riboflavin.

In addition to the acids and bioactive compounds, the ferment breeds micro-organisms which produce powerful enzymes. These enzymes break down some of the tough compounds, making the food easier to digest.  By fermenting tough foods like cassava, lactic acid bacteria detoxifies any potentially poisonous substances. In Tempe, the ferment also works to decrease the oligosaccharides gases.

Frida enjoying a few fresh coffee fruits

In conclusion, fermentation cuts through a myriad of nasty chemicals.  Cereals, legumes, and tubers contain toxic compounds including Phytates, Tannins, Cyanogenic glycosides, Oxalates, Saponins, Lectins, alpha-amylase, Trypsin, and Chymotrypsin.  Luckily, fermentation breaks down these anti-nutritional components such as Phytate in whole wheat breads and lectins in soy beans.

Fermenting and cooking are great ways to boost your home production, lessen our footprint and build self-empowerment.

We research, share, and teach permaculture online. Thanks for supporting us.


Going Bananas –

Get Some Real Banana Bread

One of the greatest challenges for building a sustainable culture is learning to eat what the climate and soil want to grow and not forcing it to produce what our culture is accustomed to eating.  During the recent ‘Hunger Period’ when Cuba was is economic turmoil, the locals grew food on street corners and in government city farms. The power of that community was celebrated yet Cubans hung on dearly to a cultural remnant called white bread. Bananas grew everywhere during that time and still they grace street corners because nobody needs to remove them. (See tips below on how to grow or remove them).

Home-grown Special

Given that most people around the world can grow bananas and most can keep hens or quail for eggs (if you can keep a cat or a dog, you can find a way to keep quail). Imagine growing and cooking pancakes from your own garden on your home-fuelled stove.

Green Banana Great Cooking

Bananas, green or yellow, make a great flour.  In addition, it is gluten-free and full of nutrients. Real Banana Pancakes are super easy. Basically use two eggs for each banana and add milks or spices to your tasting.

Use It or Share It

In our warm temperate permaculture garden we have designed some micro-climates that the bananas love. And best of all our bananas ripen in winter! Winter is usually a lean time our food forest so this abundance is enjoyed. We have thousands of bananas which we readily share. but now we know how to use up the green banana, we can enjoy more of the crop.

The other abundant crop here in winter is from the Rocoto Chilli trees.  No typical western recipe springs to mind to combine these two delicious resources. Green Banana + chillis = Cayeye and Cabeza de Gato (Colombian Mashed Green Plantain) with home-made Salsa on the side. Yum.

Green Bananas of any variety can substitute for plantain in most recipes. If you want a quick and yummy snack, you can make green banana crisps. simply slice the green banana, salt it then fry it.  This fast food will keep for weeks because it dries out crisp as it cools.  Alternatively, you can dry your bananas in a solar dryer.

Want A Banana Beer With Your Banana Fries?

The passionate and experienced researcher, Bruce French, has studied the amazing array of produce from rare and under-appreciated food plants. Before you get into the beer, find out more about the benefits of a range of banana ferments.

There are many recipes out there for banana beers. Most use a cereal crop such as maize to get it going, but anything once living will ferment. If you are keen to make pure banana beer beware it just may take a few conventional beers prior to get the stamina to like it.

Bananas are Tough

In all honesty, in good soil and mild climates, Bananas are hard to remove. If you need to remove them simply dig up the pups to give to other people, cut the main stems with a bread-knife, cover the area with an old tarpaulin, you can cover that with mulch and potted plants for a year.

Did you know?

Did you know that the banana stool is not a tree? Bananas are a herb. In fact, it is the tallest flowering herb.

Bananas are more than just a lunchtime companion. Every part of the banana is useful. For permaculture designs, the banana is a great erosion stabliser, good to grow on fast eroding banks and in gullies and shallow or intermittent water courses to slow the water down. They have a tendency to travel slowly over the years because the new pups need to grow in the shelter of their parent. Each mature banana stool will only fruit once so you can chop it down and feed it to the poultry, or a worm farm, use it as mulch or garden edge. With some practice you can cut tall fruiting stems whilst keeping the stem vertical. This way,  the bunch is not damaged as you chop. This also means you don’t need a ladder to access a big bunch.

Design To Exclude Wind

The biggest thing that will limit your crop is wind. Wind rips at their leaves, reduces the local moisture available to their roots and can spread disease. Bananas love sun-traps. In your permaculture design, sun-traps have multiple functions.

Sadly, the main threat to commercial Bananas worldwide is disease. So, check that you are not violating agricultural restrictions. These restrictions are there to limit the spread of disease.  The modern banana was predicted to become extinct by 2020, but we can all help turn that around by choosing unusual, organic and less than perfect varieties when we shop. Diversity is the key to our resilience.

And Wait, There’s More!

Nothing need go to waste from a banana plant. The leaves can be used for fencing, temporary roofing, bedding in the hen house, even as a compostable umbrella. Many people cook foods in the leaves and big leaves are a beautiful throw-away platter.  It is also possible to make paper out of the banana fibers. This video shows a school girl making banana paper.

Learn how to design your permaculture world.

We research, share, and teach permaculture online. Thanks for supporting us.

‘Imagineering a better future’

 Why a course in Imagineering?

When I first learned about Permaculture Design in 1993 I was working part-time with a toddler on my hip and a lively pre-schooler in tow. I read lots of books in library, was inspired by the documentary Global Gardener.  I experimented with bits and pieces of permaculture. There was no local permaculture network at that time. What I was doing, was trying imagineer a better future for family without the full set of permaculture design thinking skills.

So, with the support of my extended family I traveled to the mountains to learn with visiting permaculture teachers Jude and Michel Fanton and Rosemary Morrow.  Rosemary’s books got me thinking about the power of simple art to teach complex issues with some clarity.

But the journey had to start at home. With small successes at home, growing delicious and rare foods, my interest in permaculture was sustained. If I hadn’t experienced the health from growing food I would be back shopping for the latest fashions, stressing over debt and working in a heavily competitive environment to earn enough to live a few glamorous weekends.

Not every day is a happy day. But every day is a lesson about nature.  This I share with students and fellow permies. Pioneering Permaculture ideas helps build a healthy future for humanity.

Over the decades I have created designs for others but I know the most successful implementation has happened with those clients who actually understood how the design worked.  Since I started teaching permaculture online in 1995 I have had students from 65 countries. These students have been remarkable and I am very proud of their work.

Once a year I venture out and teach a winter retreat. Come and join us.

What is Imagineering?

Imagineering is the implementing of creative ideas into practical form. That is exactly what permaculture design does.

Few people, once they are in the full swing of life, take time to sit down to study again.  Most folks set up house, take a job in a new area, plan their holidays and embrace a family life without much planning. They might get the chance to do the odd one-day course and piece together a lifestyle that they enjoy.

The advantage of doing a full course in permaculture is that you get to piece together all the concepts – the tangible and the intangible.

Intangible concepts?

Perhaps that sounds like a load of philosophy, not practical permaculture.  Um, yes there is a bit of philosophy needed when you want to imagine a future. To imagine and engineer your future you might want to think about what you love most and how to nurture that. Other concepts are how to design a lifestyle, a community, how to use money effectively, or how to mimic patterns in nature. Other intangibles include dealing with debt and stress. How to see the world differently and not just as a set of problems.

Don’t just do something, sit there!

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.

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 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.









How To Kill Your Garden in 10 Ways

Killing It?

Do you love your garden to death? Most gardens thrive on enthusiasm but this can accidentally kill it in just a few easy steps.

The good news is that a garden doesn’t usually die quickly. But the flip side of the slow decline is that it is a quiet, sulking kind of demise. You might wonder what you’re doing wrong. Or perhaps you wonder now what is really lost in a the death of a garden?

Essentially, poor design kills a garden.  Step outside and ask yourself: How can a garden suffer and die?

 1. Suffocating

Few people understand their landscape. Fewer discover what gardens really need in order to thrive. Basically, it’s all about the soil. There are 5 simple, yet vital, components in soil for growing healthy plants.

The 5 ingredients needed for good soil are: Air pockets, in-ground stored Water, Minerals, Organic Matter and Organisms. Plants need little pockets of air in the soil so they stretch out their roots and grow.  Luckily, air is free. You don’t need to rush out and get any specialist aerating tools. Just sit down and observe how the air is being lost.  Most commonly, air is lost from a garden by people treading all over it. Secondly, air can get pushed out by poor water management. The third way to suffocate the garden is to allow visitors, children, pets, wind and rain to bare the soil. If your garden is doing poorly then leaving the soil to lie naked to the elements will certainly top it off.

2. Drowning

It is easy to kill a garden with bad water management.  Check that there is water in your soil. The best test is to see if you can actually dig a hole. If you need a machine to dig a hole then you have soil that is perfect for making pots but not growing plants. If you find your soil blowing away, you have soil perfect for making children’s sand-pits. Build up the organic matter and this should start a beautiful habitat for micro-organisms.

3. Poisoned

afluenza-cureIn an era when we are rushing from one activity to the next, it is easy to think “if a little bit is good then a lot is even better” This is not true of Garden-Love-Potions like fertiliser. Even natural, organic and locally sourced fertiliser is only required sparingly and only as a kick-start. Once the organisms are thriving, let them be. Don’t let your relationship with the soil become toxic.

4. Exhausted

Enthusiastic people are prone to over-commitment. They put their hands up at community meetings, cook-up great feasts for family and friends, work on the board of directors for lots of projects and then, OUCH – the inevitable mishap brings their plans tumbling into chaos.

Design the garden to provide for itself.  Let the leaves sit to decompose in flower beds. Design to let the water slowly percolate through the garden beds. Let the plants self-seed.

In truth, plants like being part of a community. A sapling that is planted all on its own has to endure full sun, hurling winds, stinging rain and children’s misguided footballs.  Whereas, deep in a forest, a sapling is nurtured by its elders and then rises to fill their void when they are struck down by the elements. A harsh adolescence for a garden will either kill it or forever bear the scars.

5. Stressed

Some gardens are on high alert. They are cracked up and full of weeds because they are desperately trying to correct imbalances and build a habitat for wildlife again.

Lets talk about weeds. When a garden has weeds this means the gardener has neglected to plant anything else that would thrive in that place. Sometimes weeds are your friend, helping you rejuvenate an exhausted soil. Pulling out the weeds can be akin to pulling out the life-support for a garden. If your garden needs a lot of maintenance, it will not give you much joy. Vandana Shiva challenges us “What will life look like when we finally win the war against nature?”

 6. Swooning

Some gardens are Fashion Victims. They are in a constant state of hysterical rapture or ecstasy. They try everything possible to be dramatically striking.

Is you garden desperately screaming for your attention? Do you make it change the colour, shapes and philosophies just to stay lovable? Perhaps, one year its Minimalism next its Abundantly White.

Being trendy is not gentle on the planet or your wallet.  Anything that is in right now is highly likely to be out next season. Garden fashions include vast areas of lawn.  Worst of all is the fashion that covers a garden with hard surfaces. These kill the soil underneath and concentrate fast flowing water onto the little remnants of natural plants and soil. A resilient design includes rain gardens, and soft landscaping. A resilient garden gently adapts over the decades.

7. Starved

A new way of growing food has emerged in this modern era. Some factories can grow food without any living organisms in their soil. [In the hydroponics industry it isn’t even called soil – it is called a growing media].  Factory garden systems need a constant supply of nutrients, climate control, sophisticated water systems, reliable energy supplies and very close monitoring.  Sitting in a hydroponics factory really doesn’t feel the same as sitting in an abundant permaculture glade full of food and wildlife. What this tells us is how amazing a natural system truly is.

Let’s pause before you really kill that garden. Would you be better off with an amicable split? Can you afford the guilt? OK, maybe, but can you really afford the diminished real estate value?  You could sell up before the relationship gets really ugly.

If you are too busy for a garden, you might need a garden that doesn’t need you? Luckily for you and the planet, a forest doesn’t ask for any input except to be allowed to exist. The forest plans to be there for you whenever you want to connect.  Help protect a forest for a better future for us all.

8. Deprived

Needy gardens have a weak structure that will break under the slightest neglect.  These gardens have grown accustomed to a regime of control. They expect to be pruned as soon as possible after the wind has ruffled them. They cry for water then as soon as the sun gets too intense because they have developed shallow root systems or have been kept contained and imprisoned in a totally man-made environment.  It is not the garden’s fault. It is the original set up that created this dysfunctional system.


The only hope for a needy garden is to redesign it. Accept that nature is more powerful than you, even when you think you are the one in control. Learn to let go.  Masanobu Fukuoka developed the art of letting go and observing what is most the productive and compatible way to garden. Everyone’s garden is different and every solution requires observation before action.

9. Lost

Your garden doesn’t understand you.  You stand outside on a beautiful, sunny day but you feel cold. The pergola vine doesn’t drop its leaves to let the winter light. That shrub your Aunt gave you is now a huge tree and keeps dropping leaves into the neighbour’s pool.  They never invite you to their parties.  Your washing line is covered in pollution from the city, so you use the clothes dryer. The electricity bill is ever-increasing.  The path to the bin is mossy and slippery.  The friendly neighbour’s weeds are all over the fence. You wave politely.  A flock of birds roost in the branches of a tree that hangs over the driveway. They sing joyously as they poop all over your car. The children’s play area is burning hot. So, they beg to play virtual reality games instead but they are full of energy.

The house gets noisy so you decide to drive them to their favourite playground miles away. It is attached to a take-away restaurant. Your Grandfather asks why the children are getting fat.  Is this garden determined to kill you? The lack of garden design is the culprit.

10. Crushed

The garden media push is intense and at times, irresistable. Garden expos, magazines and television shows love making us feel that our garden is inadequate. Getting home, we view our own space as dated and full of chores.

We want that totally NOW garden. Go get that enthusiastic and uncommonly attractive design team in the Video. Yes, throw out the existing plants, get in some fancy trees, truck loads of soil, plastic weed-mat, mountains of cement and bright paint. Crush the old garden!

But there can be happy memories and cozy familiarity in tending something old. It costs a lot (emotionally and financially) to kill a garden. Yet it costs very little to be kind, observant and reconcile your love affair with your garden.

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