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.




Difference Between Organic Gardening and Permaculture

The Permaculture garden is a lot more than an organic garden. It is a designed garden.

  • It is a system that is focused on closing the fertiliser loop by using waste, and reducing the dependence on inputs by creating healthy soil and diversity of produce.
  • It is also responsible for its waste, it aims not to pollute the surrounding environment, i.e. neither with excess nitrogen released into the water systems, nor weed seed into any natural systems.
  • It uses design to minimise the gardeners chores and energy input. Repetitive and mundane hard work is the joy of few people doing permaculture.  Variety and observation keep people engaged and excited about growing food. Permaculture activists are motivated by reducing their ecological footprint and developing a varied healthy lifestyle. Permaculture needs to engage all people of different ability, not just young strong people who can shovel compost.
  • It aims to imitate nature. Visually this is the most noticeable difference between organic gardening and permaculture. In permaculture gardens (home systems is the more holistic term) there is rarely bare soil, the conservation of soil and water is a high priority. There is a more complex use of space. Plants are allowed to set seed and are interplanted for pest control. You are unlikely to see plants in rows.
  • The permaculture system aims to harvest and maximise water, sun and other natural energies, e.g. wind, dust, leaves, bird droppings.
  • The permaculture system aims to provide nutritious food and habitat for people AND native animals and birds.

difference between organic gardening and Permaculture

What’s the difference between Organic Farming and Permaculture?

Basically, Permaculture uses organic gardening and farming practices but it goes beyond these practices and integrates the garden and home to create a lifestyle that impacts less on the environment.potato (2)

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.

Permaculture goes one step further. Permaculture 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.

When is Permaculture not organic?

There will be times when a permaculture system is not strictly organic because it is using local resources rather than importing certified organic resources or perhaps the designer wants to increase diversity by bringing in unusual plants/seeds from another source that is not organic.

Re-purpose local resources

This 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.

Permaculture Can Convert A Resource

We 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.

See more about our Permaculture Design and Demonstration Site.


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 – 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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


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.

Aussies at IPC UK Convergence

Postcard from IPCUK

Energy affects everyone Recently, we went to IPCUK – International Permaculture Conference and Convergence in London.  Permaculture Conferences are a great chance to exchange ideas and get a sense of where the movement is headed.  This conference had a bright confident atmosphere and there was a deep sense of maturity and belonging at the convergence. Congratulations to Permaculture UK. The hosting association was strong, purposeful, empowered and well-organised with great teams and buckets of enthusiasm.

Great Cultural Icons

What I loved most about this conference was the was bright and tangible cultural flavour.  Of course, the meetings were openly welcome for all the international delegates, but always there was a lovely English cultural flavour.

There was a touching sense of pride and value in:

Richard Webb sharing the knowledge of the landscape, pollarding and native foods.
Richard introduces us to centuries of pollarding
  • Native foods (such as apples, berries, cider, beer, sandwiches, cheeses)
  • Traditional folklore such as wreaths for crowning the hard-working-well-deserving volunteers, and traditions such as natural plant dyes. We enjoyed reading the landscape,  learning about ancient forest animals, the shaping of the forest by horse riding, hunting and tree management.
  • The Arts – Theatre, poerty and song.  Three Acres and a Cow did a fantastic play that sang about the clearances and the value of ‘a people versus the land.’ This made me surprisingly sad because I am descended from people those very same people who were undervalued and shipped off.  Later, as I left the English Autumn, I realised how blessed I am that my people landed in a rich and creative culture.  A behind-the-scenes session by Charlie MacGee was magical, personal and fun. I was so proud of you and pleased our little crowdfunding donation was very well spent in your early years!!
Epping forest, London IPUK delegates from Africa and Hong Kong marvel at the wasted abundance in a major city
Epping forest, London IPCUK delegates from Africa and Hong Kong marvel at the abundant wild food in a major city
  • Tributes to the local history: even the venues were of cultural significance. The Conference venue [The Quakers Friends house] is an old English Society that has changed the notion of peace around the world. The Convergence venue [The World Scout Headquarters] is also an English international movement and has taught many young people world-wide life skills. (including myself).  We enjoyed a guided talk through Epping forest by permaculture teacher, Richard Webb. It was great to see these cultural icons. (people, traditions and places)

A Clear Future for the Permaculture Movement

Keri Chiveralls (left) is heading up a Permaculture Graduate Diploma with world-wide recognition.

Since the last Permaculture International Conference and Convergence a lot of social aspects of the movement have been developed. The movement is getting more skilled at finding the balance between people care and earth care.

  • On the grass-roots level we are seeing a lot of strategies that were once touted as alternative-living or hippy practices (composting, solar power, growing your own food, supporting local markets, fixing things and having a go at doing-it-yourself) now recognised as common-sense and even good business strategies.
  • There is strong direction in building the evidence-based research and a world-wide research community to investigate, document and publish findings. There is also incredible growth in permaculture education at university level (The new Permaculture Design and Sustainability Program at CQUniversity looks very exciting).
  • The education and training for people of all walks of life and backgrounds is also expanding and a clearer map is forming of global best-practices which include mature and bountiful demonstration sites and communities.
  • Finally, the most promising development for me was the emergence of co-operation, overcoming the competitive corporate thinking that rules most of the western world and building a new community of resilient, intellectual harmony.

Co-operation on The World-Wide Permaculture Stage

The Next-Big-Step project got hundreds delegates together listening to one another and

Andy and Naomi presenting the Next Big Step goals.
Andy and Naomi & The Next Big Step.

talking about their passion and challenges and we saw the beginning of a plan to bring permaculture together as a truly cohesive, aware (documenting one another’s projects: successes, failures and goals) and well-researched movement.  Here is a link to their working papers if you want to be involved.

This Convergence demonstrated the incredible potential of co-operative projects rather than competitive permaculture.  Competitive behaviour will sometimes rears it’s ugly head in permaculture This is all part of a democratic, empowered society.  It was a joy to see the maturity of a movement that can sit together and learn from one another regardless of how famous or successful each individual has become.

April and Wes Roe discussing the value of getting together at International Conferences and Convergences.


10 Amazing Tree Powers

Specialist Trees

There are some amazing specialist varieties of treesDartmoor-Tree that are very powerful. These super-trees produce diesel nuts, have leaves that can burn wet, produce abundant fruit, support a web of life, a big enough to live in, provide timber that never rots, live for thousands of years, support a wild-life of fungi underground, hold the steep slopes of mighty mountains and others can communicate for miles underground.

There are at least 10 types of trees that we can depend upon: Fuel, Food, Oils, Forage, Structural, Conservation, Carbon sequestration, Soil managers, animal barriers, and Fungal & Microbial Habitat.

  1. FuelYou can choose from solid fuel and flammable leaves, bark, oil and ‘diesel’ nuts. petroleum-nut
    Solid fuel from trees can be collected either as natural droppings (cones from nut pines, fallen wood) or as planned cuts (thinning, or felling of short term forest for soil creation). David Holmgren writes that solid fuels are the most useful energy resource globally because: we can
    plan for their harvest, they are easy to cut, require little training to use, convert easily to energy, hard to steal or vandalise, and renew themselves. Some timber ie. Eucalyptus leaves will even burn wet.Diesel and Petroleum treesburn like candles. The Brazilian tropical rainforest tree Copaifera langsdorffii commonly known as Capaiba (Tupi Indian word cupa-yba) is a legume and known as the diesel tree. It can be tapped sustainably like maple trees. More powerful is Pittosporum resiniferum. This oil can also be distilled into a very pure form of n-Heptane.
    BioGas fuel can use coppiced tree material
    with animal manure for conversion of biomass via composting for methane collection.
    One of the biggest challenges for the conversion to natural energy use is finding a form that is compatible with the system we already have. Nicole Foss talks about our limitations due to the current dependence on particular forms of energy. At the moment, mankind is dependent on electricity from an aging grid network and liquid fuel or gas for transport. Biogas and other energy transition technologies allow us to convert existing equipment such as gas cookers and tractors.
  2. Food & Alcohol (more than 80% of the world’s food species came from the photo taken at australian tropical foods nursery QLDrainforest). The permaculture food forest usually intercrops fruit and layers of nut trees. We use strong food trees to support vine crops and short-lived trees act as nurse trees to maturing species. Tall evergreen trees are positioned in the shaded corner of the orchard and often used as wind-breaks.
  3. OilsThere are a myriad of herbal, medicinal, culinary and cosmetic oils from trees including Eucalyptus, olive, and Neem.
  4. Forage/Fodder. This is an excellent resource that is often overlooked by conventional modern farming. Many trees provide excellent, nutritious fodder for animals. They can be grown as living fences,(applied at Avonstour) hedges or as shade trees in the corners of paddocks. The cattle fertilise the fodder trees and the run-off is filtered well by the abundant layers of forest shrubbery beneath. Forage Examples include: Oak, Poplar, Acacia aneura (Mulga), Albizia Julibrissa (Leguminous, deciduous, fast growing, regenerates) Dodnaea viscosa (Hop bush)
  5. Structural/Shelter – Many trees were known to be big enough to shelter a traveller. Even Plato wrote about trees too big to put his arms around.
  6. Conservation/Wildlife Habitat The preservation of habitat makes good economic sense as much as ethical sense. If nothing more, we can keep healthy forests as a bank of diverse genetic material because most of it we have not yet recognised it’s full value to us. We may be able to create clean air, water, soil and find nutrients but we can’t recreate genetic material.
  7. Carbon Sequestration is the long-term storage of carbon dioxide or other forms of carbon to either mitigate or defer global warming and avoid dangerous climate change. Long living trees are excellent guardians of carbon. Many trees live thousands of years (including olives) however, clonal colonies of trees have the potential to be immortal. Pando, an 80,000-year-old colony of Quaking Aspen, is the oldest known clonal tree.
  8. Soil Management- able to hold banks of steep slopes, trap centuries of silt, create their own rain and micro-climate. Trees have been shown to seed the clouds to help make rain.
  9. Animal barrier systems -, Hedges can be stronger, longer lasting and more durable than fences. Not all hedges have to be chaotic, some can be trimmed to sit up off the ground, allow small creatures to pass underneath and larger animals/people and cars to stay out.
  10. Fungi & Microbe Incubation is an amazing new discovery for conversion of sugars into energy sources. Paul Stamets shows how mushrooms can save the world.



Happy Giving

Why Give Gifts?

Gift giving is up there with the biggest consumer spending frenzies of our lives. It is as emotionally charged as buying a home, a car or a holiday. Some people might think the easy answer is to stop spending and stop giving gifts. Some might think that it is better to give money so the recipient can choose to spend it how they wish. But giving money is giving up on all the trimmings that go with the act of giving.  We give each other things to show we have thought about them, want to share things with them and give them surprises. In contrast to this – being mean makes people more isolated, more distrustful, less caring and self-centered.

Generosity is an up-ward spiral of positive thoughts, an enriching psychological experience. When we are generous, we are kind and say encouraging things and act to support others.  We can turn the gift-giving into an opportunity to good for others, for producers and for the planet.

Gifts For The People You Love And The Planet You Treasure


Instrument craftsman in Peru

Locally handcrafted gifts are three way gifts – They give to monetary support and encouragement to
1. your loved one
2. the planet, and
3. your local artists and economy

Personal Gifts

  • Buying Antiques allows an item to be loved again. Antique collectors value design, craftmanship and durability.  Antique items have character, are unique and often have a life-story to reveal. There are many amazing pieces of history that need a good home, to be dusted, polished and cared for. We don’t need to buy anything new when there is so much stuff from the past.
  • indiana-state-museum-fossilsFossils and other historic items need care, you can give these to a friend who will exhibit and value them OR you could give a gift of membership to your local museum.
  •  Handmade jewellery or handbag jewellery or
  • bookmark or spectacle holder made from recycled necklace.
  • Tickets to see a show (there’s little wrapping or waste, simply pop it in a hand-made card).
  • Hire a ride in a vintage car, this is especially good for people who need a special outing but can’t go out for a long period.
  • Photos of their childhood, family members and travels presented as a small non-plastic ‘poster’.
  • Hand-made photo frames.
  • A real razor blade, not a disposable one.
  • Under-arm de-odorising rock salt crystal.
  • Walking shoes.
  • Handkerchiefs or cloth serviettes instead of paper tissues. These are amazingly handmade jewellerygood finds in the op-shops and markets – You can find some still in their packaging and of a very fine quality linen.
  • A silk pillow case to prevent hair from getting knotty in bed
  • A silk eye pillow with dried herbs and calming oils
  • A basket of homemade ecologically sound cleansers.
  • Cosmetics and toiletries made from natural ingredients and not tested on animals.
  • Their favourite home cooked meal frozen in a resealable serving dish, ready for a weary day. include recipe in a card.
  • A hand made scarf/bow/tie or cloth jewelery bag.
  • A hand-made musical instrument or clothing

Homely Gifts

  • A live potted Christmas tree, that can be planted out after Christmas. This could live potted tree Mt Kembla Permaculture Visionsbe a native pine OR a large chilli plant full of chillis (for a Summer Christmas – southern hemisphere) OR a shrub that is full of flowers such as a rose (to make rose syrup and other delicacies).
  • Home made preserves and chilli sauces
  • A Packet/s of seeds. OR make a suprise packet out of mixed seeds (check they are all edible in case they are mistaken)
  • Subscription to a seed saving group, soft technology magazines, organic gardening magazines, rare fruits association etc.
  • A donation to a charity such as Tear or other like organisation on the recipients behalf.
  • Hand-made compost bay.
  • Worm farm made from found materials. The Potted worm farm looks great with a plant on top and you can water it whenever you pop over.
  • A non-disposable lunch kit with a thermos or drink bottle, lunch box with separate compartments so no wrap is required, cloth serviettes. You can add a few velcro fastners to make a cloth serviette into a durable, washable wrap.
  • A fountain pen and coloured inks.
  • A cup to carry everywhere.
  • Cloth nappies and a pledge to help hang them out.
  • Energy saving shower head.
  • An eco-tour or eco-holiday voucher (you can offer to take them on a bush-walk or holiday or their choice).
  • Durable garden tools.
  • Books on organic gardening, composting, herbs and flowers, native species.
  • Field guides on birds and local reptiles.
  • solar recharger for phone – this is great to take on a hike, in case you get lost! Also include a flint or even a little survival kit.
  • A garden pond with optional solar powered fountain.
  • A fruit dryer.
  • A yoghurt maker.
  • Rechargeable batteries with re-charger.
  • A tent and small, efficient camping equipment. To encourage clean bush walking and adventure.
  • Dried herbs and flowers from your garden and instructions on their use as a tea.
  • Natural wool or angora sweaters, scarves, hats, gloves, socks.
  • Hand-made baskets, natural fibre washing baskets, paper waste containers, pot plant containers, picnic baskets.
  • Canvas, string or cane shopping bags, ham bag.  A supermarket cloth bag with a favourite fabric pocket sewn over the logo as well as a bit of elastic inside the sides. These bags are always too wide and floppy.
  • Potted kitchen herbs in organic potting mix (you could make this yourself).our winter harvest Permaculture Visions
  • Edible house plants such as sugar cane for hot spots, mint, shallots, monstera vine.
  • Gift voucher for nursery plants or environmental products and courses.
  • Beeswax or remade candles.
  • Homemade preserves.
  • Hand-painted recycled glassware.
  • Organic Christmas Cake or other special treat.
  • A homemade Christmas wreath of grapevine and other home grown materials.
  • Blankets (cotton or wool) suitable for the lounge and living areas.
  • recycled material turned into Cloth kitchen washers/cloths/ car washers etc. You can simply cut and hem the edges.


  • Redeemed  toys (repainted bicycle, trike, scooter, rocking horse). Use safe paints, preferably organic paint products. These items could be antiques but beware of toxicity of old paints and any loose parts.
  • Homemade cushions and bean bags with environmentally friendly safe stuffing.
  • A wooden loom and natural fabrics for weaving.
  • A dolls or action figures tent made of recycled fabrics and stakes.
  • Science series books by David Suzuki.
  • A homemade backyard swing or tree house, a rope climbing aparatus.
  • A small gardening kit, tools and seed.
  • Wooden or cane furniture.prize pumpkins Permaculture Visions
  • seeds for novelty plants such as giant pumpkins.
  • Roller skates or bicycles to encourage energy efficient travel.
  • Recycled or re-used paper fastened as a book.
  • Craft books.
  • Weather proof boots.
  • Pets such as ducklings and hens, Guinea pigs or Rabbit in hutch to mow the lawn.

Wrap gifts in Re-useable materials

  • Children’s Artworks
  • unused photocopied music scores
  • Material Shopping bags
  • Tea towels or Hand towels
  • Biodegradable tablecloths
  • Sari or Beach wrap
  • Scarf
  • Beach towel
  • Picnic rug
  • Bamboo place-mats
  • hand made paper or
  • hand made bags

How To Avoid Wasted Food After Special Celebrations

Plan you menu
Write a Shopping list
Measure your serving sizes or let people serve themselves
Store Food Correctly
Eat the Leftovers
feed the leftovers to your chickens or worm farm



12 Permaculture Design Principles For Small Business

Permaculture is a design tool. The permaculture design principles can also be applied to the design of a small business. Here are some examples of applied Permaculture Principles. The principles used here are those taught by Bill Mollison (and some by David Holmgren).

1. Identify Your Elements

Touring Schumacher College, Totnes UK

An element is a component of your system or business. Your list of elements may include: intellectual property, office, marketing, natural capital (such as water, fruit/nuts), presentation material such as boxes, jars, labels, product information, transport, time for delivery (especially for services), customer feedback processes. These elements are then analysed to determine their needs and all their potential functions, not just the functions we seek. We then use the principle of relative location to link them together to optimise efficiency.

2. Use Relative Location

Connect elements by their function and needs.  Elements can be linked in a energy chain or network. Here’s how it could work in a simple system like an orchard:

  1. An Orchard needs protection from fire, a good water supply. It also needs to be weeded and rotten fruit needs to be removed.
  2. The processing shed can capture rain water which can be used by the fruit processing system then fed to the geese, then it could go to the orchard if we locate the shed uphill from the orchard and use gravity as part of the water management.
  3. Geese can weed, mow the fire break, eat rotting fruit and provide droppings as a natural fertilizer.

Through the principle of relative location we link the shed, the orchard and the geese (a biological resource).  Some elements are linked more closely ie. Workers need education and procedures. Procedures need feedback from workers.

  • Position elements of business so that there is minimal transport between them.
  • Use natural forces where possible to work for you. (Eg. Information transferred by email, mail or fax so workers don’t have to travel far to work.
  • Use local inputs. Physical elements such as manure can be collected, filtered and processed nearby, are easily relocated and you can determine manageable sizes (in the same way bee-farmers move their hives).
  • Sunlight can warm the wall of a processing unit – be aware and determine if this is helpful or increasing your refrigeration costs.ladies-morning-meeting-in-glasshouse-market-garden
  • Solar power can be used to run computer monitor systems.
  • Your office can be mobile and paperless.
  • We can bring the information to the customer in a variety of ways.
  • Waste can be valued. It can be integrated into the system, process and sold. ie. waste water can also act as fire-prevention by being positioned in a useful location near a main path and up high where it can be distributed easily needed.


3. Enable Multiple Functions

Each Element in the design should be used and positioned to perform a range of functions.

  • Marketing is performed in a variety of ways, through different media, and to different types of customers.
  • Services and Products are modular and durable. Customers can tailor their purchase or use by purchasing the components they want, expand or reduce interconnecting parts and purchase as and when they want it.
  • Transport can be shared with other suppliers, businesses or projects.
  • Tools and equipment can be shared with other businesses. Sharing includes hiring.
  • Equipment and physical resources will be recycled or reused as much as possible.
  • Multiple elements for each function
  • The variety of skills can satisfy other functions either for other elements or for other like-minded businesses (for example: your efforts to promote sustainability will help other similar organisations).  Therefore, you can band together and form a co-op or just a friendly relationship with other businesses.
  • A business function is satisfied with more than one element: eg. Other businesses refer customers to yours because your marketing has been general as well as specific and has helped build general interest in sustainability.
  • Use a range of inputs ie. herbs or fruit, especially seasonal and local ones, to create the products whilst maintaining the quality expected by your customers.
  • Rely on more than one source for your supplies. Ie. water, produce or power collection needs various methods to create resilience during dry periods. Rainwater tanks, condensation traps, in-ground collection such as swales and rain pits.  Similarly, use a wide range of suppliers or types of inputs to build resilience when a supplier is suddenly unable to meet your needs.
  • Use a combination of security measures such as dogs, geese, friends with neighbours, fencing, hedges and housing.
  • Use variety of pest deterrents such as animals (cats or ratting dogs) indoors in warehouses to deter rats, ultra-sonic beams to scare away rodents, as well as rodent-proof construction of shed walls, floors and doors. Steel wool is eventually biodegradable and is an excellent rat-hole plugging material. Unfortunately a lot of degradable materials and techniques have been abandoned and forgotten in the Plastics era.
  • Use a combination of hazard prevention measures such as a building a culture of care, clear signals, clean workplace, good relations with workers.
  • Use different means of support. Ie for fences we can use metal stakes interspersed with wooden poles made from woody weeds.  When a farmer plants living fences or hedges as well as wire fencing, she is creating a durable, long-term security system. Hedges can last hundreds of years. She could use the wire fence in the short-term (up to 20 years) and be confident that the hedge will only require low-tech (but specialised crafting) for good maintainance.
  • Pumps can be solar-powered with a back-up facility such as a windmill, hand pump or ethanol-powered generator. Etc.

4. Stress-Free Yieldmulberry-cheesecake

  • By giving each element several functions we accept that not all the functions can be performed all the time.
  • The workers can choose to from a variety of tasks unless there is a strict time frame, then there should be a rotation system so they don’t get bored or injuries from repetitive work (such as picking fruit, or bending over to pick salads).
  • Listen to ideas of workers, suppliers and customers to improve the system.
  • Production may be lower than in forced conditions but the sum of all the functions is greater (ideas, harvest collected, respect and observation of trees).
  • A reduction of stress on each element in the business, if they are all working for the good of the business, will result in the sum of efforts will be greater. Every worker and component will run efficiently and have greater productivity.Permaculture Principle: Set limits and redistribute surplus
  • Safety is a very important consideration, without safety in the workplace; the cost can outweigh all profits over the years of the business.
  • Early in the implementation of our permaculture enterprise we aimed for stress-free yield because we knew our work was pioneering, and vulnerable to stress. We didn’t borrow money for the business because this would have enforced a level of profitability that would be stressful. We didn’t seek government funding because the project would have to meet the government expectations rather than the real customer needs.

Small and Slow Solutions

  • A small business can be a pilot for a larger company or you may discover that you are happy staying small.
  • Some services and products can be expanded or contracted according to market demand.

Obtain a Yield

  • Ensure that your short-term efforts have some immediate rewards but keep some profit for long-term goals ie improved software and documentation methods)
  • refine work procedures (homework answering, student management),
  • identify successes
  • Re-evaluated your measures of success
  • sharing surpluses once the business is functioning well by providing scholarships, support or donations to others in need.

5. Energy Efficiency

Use existing physical, social and biological capital to maximum energy potential: share resources such as cars, support local transport, build structures that can work to shelter the garden as well as store heat for night-time, require minimal energy in maintenance, and are durable. Avoid abandoning ideas, technology, machinery or computers that are not competitive without first examining ways to update/expand and increase their efficiency. Many users do not use their equipment to full potential, they are still learning the potential of the current one while considering a new model.

Some offices can be made more efficient by natural resources such as natural lighting, solar or sun-heating, coupling the room with a greenhouse window or room. Remember that customers will expect your office to be a working model of sustainability. Ideally it should not look expensive but should be simple, comfortable, accessible, well-lit, full of natural fibres and a view of a garden.

6. Biological Resources

  • Maximise the use of biological and physical materials.
  • Consider the full life of the product.
  • Search for biodegradable alternatives that can be used as mulch or compost at the end of their first use. Eg. A wide-spreading tree is a more efficient use of resources for a shade house than one made of wood and nails. In the promenade at Notre Dame Paris, the trees form a durable, seasonally adjusting, air filtering shade. In the narrow streets of El Bosque in Spain, citrus trees are the posts to guide to cars, their trunks are painted white and flowers grow at the base. Consider only biodegradable packaging and insulation such as popped-corn for fragile packages instead of plastic pieces.

grocycle mushrooms grown on coffee wasteA clever small business example is GroCycle in Totnes, UK where the business cut the processing cost of growing mushrooms by using an abundant pre-processed waste – coffee grinds.

7. Energy Flow

  • Design to harvest and use natural energy flows E.g. Wind, wave solar or running water.  Animals can be guided into narrow paths that serve to compact and stabilise slopes on contour. Water can be used to maintain an edge. Gravity can aid harvest machinery by collecting fruits from the top of the hill and roll the machinery downhill as the loader fills with fruit and becomes heavier. We can position collection points, processing equipment and export sheds with a road out at the bottom of the hill. This can help minimise the need for imported energy inputs.
  • Reduce costs of storage of products or equipment by keeping the product fresh and utilizing the just-in-time processing concept.  We can keep the order process prompt and maintain a closer contact with our customers.

Let nature do her work

  • In a Business design we can use natural energy as much as possible. Don’t be afraid to tell a customer that nature can offer a similar service. Consider the Osteopath that recognised that the customer needed to walk to help heal their back. The customer who takes this simple advice may no longer be a regular customer but will refer other.
  • On a chicken farm we can set up systems where the chickens can feed themselves.
  • On a Maron or Yabbie farm we can create ideal conditions that support natural breeding rather than engage in expensive artificial breeding systems.
  • Silk worms can be housed close to or in the trees if we can devise protective shelters.
  • Nuts may be able to harvested more easily during particular climatic conditions.
  • Allow crops to self seed or allow crop residues to act as nurse for a different crop.

8. Natural Succession

  • Imitate nature in your plans to help a system evolve to meet your needs.
  • For commercial crops investigate systems similar to Fukuoka. Eg: You could allow the grasses to become seeded with herbs and flat ‘weeds’, grow tall grasses and pioneer species that act as green manure (Oats, Wheat, Sorghum) to protect young climax species (eg. fruit trees) from frost and insect attack.
  • A social example would be to glean the wisdom of our elders (canopy and support species)
  • Be active in social or professional guilds (companions and guild people) and seek a niche for our talents (a place in a complex society)
  • Allow time to explore growth opportunities as they appear (as in the forest when the canopy opens and new light appears).

9. Value Bio-Diversity

A farm would aim to include a variety of species of food plants, pollinators, animals and workers. This principle works in Business when we value a diverse range of supplies, techniques and technologies.

Diversity in nature builds resilience and resistance to pest attack. It also lets us find which variety works well in our own particular climate and micro-climates.

  • There are some government subsidies, customer value (including organic and Forestry certification systems) and other Integrated Pest Management rewards for farmers who strive to preserve. These are tangible economic rewards for the active efforts of businesses to preserve and promote diversity in natural systems.
  • Diversity creates opportunity for initiatives and inventions.
  • Explore a range of biological solutions to complement and eventually replace the conventional.

10. Stacking

This concept aims to maximise the productivity of a system. In the same way a food forest can have numerous layers.  A business can have many layers and zones:

  • Family and friends provide support and promotion in personal circles
  • Associations, educational bodies and accreditation bodies provide support and quality maintainance
  • Like-minded businesses provide branches of promotion
  • Customer Relationships – we can use diverse channels for promotion and feedback. Observe and accept feedback as a chance to connect better with your customers.

11. Appropriate Technology

  • Optimise the use of a technology by making it serve more than one need, have it boats-on-the-dart-river-totneswork to full potential without overload. ie. David Homgren says “the easiest way to double efficiency of a car is to take an additional passenger.”
  • Favour simple and effective technologies. Consider delivery and running costs, it is efficient, prompt and reliable. Here is a comparison chart to help choose the best-fit in efficient technologies.
  • Favour natural fibres and avoid destructive materials such as plastics or inefficient fuel-dependent delivery.
  • Information and Observation replaces Energy
  • Smaller, more intensive, localised systems can be more productive and adaptable. They can take advantage of reduced costs/waste involved for transporting a product to the consumer.
  • Specialised products and services develop by information and observation. The natural succession or staging plan can conclude with the sharing of the business experience or intellectual property with franchisees, senior employees, students or prospective business purchaser.
  • Ensure your business is well equipped with tax and legal information, for example if you are not aware of the tax costs upon sale of the land or business, then the overall profit figures may be greatly altered. If you have to pay more tax in capital gains than you have earned as a business based on the family land, then the net result is not worth the effort. On the other hand there may be a wide range of tax advantages. Information is critical in business.
  • Aim for optimum production with minimum intervention. This is how new farming techniques such as SRI have evolved.

12. Context

Work with the natural and social context. Fit the design into its surroundings. Look at the wider social environment as a key to what will work. At the steps of parliament house, Berlin (The Reistag), there is a huge ‘lawn’ area that is designed to withstand wet conditions and high pedestrian traffic. It works with nature and provides for the needs of the people.  Another example can be seen when planting expensive crops in poor regions. These require more human intervention (in the form of security). Whereas a design that considers the social environment involves the community; provides work; and shares the profits with that community. It also benefits from pride, protection and support from that community.

Industry-prone-and-soil-and-soul-suffersIn nature: consideration of context can mean the choice of mixed species suited to the sites natural advantages. E.g. water collection, condensation trapping, shelter, sediment as occurs at an oasis.  We can also see what to avoid. E.g. if the design is within an area of natural fragility we would avoid planting trees whose seed are carried by birds or wind.

The Web of Business:

From the initial source (sun, rain, wind, and animals) energy is diverted, used, released again and transferred from one element to another. Energy connects the elements. Their common use of energy forms the web of relationships.

From the source to the sink  (the place where the energy leaves the system):

  • Diversity increases
  • Energy stores increases
  • Organisational complexity increases (but there are many new management tools to help to enable better self- determination and team work between workers.)


A business can be truly sustainable and ethical when it is resilient, responsive and responsible. This is  a hard conversion in the short-term, especially when competitors are cutting costs by using economic slaves and polluting the environment.  However, being ethical and environmentally responsible facilitates long term market harmony and prosperity.

  • In-process waste recycling and choosing natural energies can reduce costs.
  • Environmental responsibility is a means of value adding to a product.
  • There are government funds and other avenues of support and some economic incentives for acts of conservation and protection.
  • When a business does not behave ethically it eventually faces market disapproval and risks failure through legal processes.  Ethical is good. Many businesses have had to face huge legal costs of unethical, economic or environmentally damaging acts in recent years.
  • Innovative business that work with nature are complex and may require patience and development of specialist skills and knowledge.
  • You can team up with other business. Many businesses have been successful in forming partnerships that provide a hub for small, diverse and complimentary projects. Ie. The Eden Project provides a space for like-minded businesses to work with, Mark Shepard of New Forest Farm supports small business projects that use his large living capital.
  • Small businesses without debt have a better opportunity to grow according to the proprietor’s wishes.
  • There is growing network of environmental organisations and mentors to support ethical growers, producers and service operators.

Ultimate Aim of Production – Rich and Free Beings

rich-and-free-beingsThe ultimate aim of production must be to create a harmonious network of rich and free beings. When there is fair share, care of the earth and care of people as our core ethics, we search for a way to integrate our needs and productive efforts. We can tread delicately upon others and other creatures and become mindful of the impact of our actions. We can minimise the unnecessary disturbances and waste and enjoy seeking that which truly feeds our bodies and minds.

Permaculture in 3 Words – Design, Observe, Adapt

permaculture-isPermaculture differs from other ecological and social movements because it’s core focus is design.  It is not a lobby movement (although many of us may feel the need to lobby governments to achieve our community goals).  It is not just about conserving our existing bio-diversity. It offers solutions that are based on consultation and seek a fair way to build a resilient future for humanity and for plant and animal life.

Permaculture design begins with ethics, optimism and planning.  Permaculture design adapts dynamically as a result of keen observation and feedback. Each person’s design will be different but we all have the same ideals: to find a way to live that cares for other people and cares for the planet.

Permaculture Zones

Permaculture Zoning in a bag
Permaculture Design Technique called Zoning, can be practiced on a wide range of scales as diverse from Farms to kitchen, to bags.

Zoning is a Permaculture design technique where we put the elements or items of a design in areas according to need. The needs of the item and our use of it. For instance, we need tea herbs, so we plant them in pots on the kitchen window sill, (zone 0) some more near our doorstep (Zone 1) and other types of mint that love a lot of space, can serve other purposes such as suppressing weeds and only need occasional attention (such as mint) further away, perhaps in Zone 3.  Permaculture Techniques such as Zoning are scale-able.  The design technique called Zoning can be applied on large farms, city apartments, urban homes,  kitchen design,  and even in the design or re-design of a little bag. (you can redesign a bag by inserting pockets, wallets or compartments. This is similar to how we re-design a property by using fencing for the zones).

You can also view here a traditional view of permaculture zoning for a farm.

Are You Making Money or Making A Living?

There is a world of difference between making money and making a living.
Making a living requires a greater intelligence.

Sure, we are going to have to accept some lost opportunities if we choose to curb our greed a little, but then we we get the chance to see rich benefits of preserving resources for others and for our environment.

We can aim to find ways to save energy for the rainy days, enrich existing resources for our children’s children and build a better future for all.


Permaculture-Thinking Promotes Revolutionary Technology

Some people might think that living a Permaculture lifestyle means going back to peasant farming. Actually it is the opposite.  Permaculture steps beyond the industrial era, beyond the technological era and into a balancing era.

The rocket stove principle. Source: Aprovecho

The two core ethics of Permaculture are People Care and Planet Care. These ethics are balanced beautifully by the use of high-efficiency low-cost designs. It is the focus on intelligent design, awareness and use of Biomimcry and constant search for efficiency that drives the long list of Permaculture achievements.

There have been huge gains in solar power, responsible composting systems, bio-diesel fuel from algae,  Plastic-eating bacteria and many recent discoveries that give us strides in efficiency. Science is fast catching up with Permaculture ethics, realising that only through balance can we have resilience and true sustainability.

In the quietly revolutionary 70s hippie-era ‘alternative technology’ made massive chicken-drumsticks-and-potatos-for-dinnerimprovements in the lives of many people.  Simple little modifications to ancient old techniques led to new inventions like The Rocket Stove, Bio-char, bio-gas fuel, Humanure and many domestic experiments in Solar and wind which are now commercially viable.

Learn with us how to make a Rocket-Stove for your picnics and outdoor holiday adventures. Learn how to cook on open flame or in a home-made pizza oven.

Self-renewing Living Fences

What price would you put on a fence that repaired itself, sang to you in the morning, reduced the harsh wind, was warm in winter and cool in summer and gave you privacy, trapped silt and improved the soil beneath and gave you mulch?  Not long ago, these resources were common-place.  Hedges were the strong, self-renewing fences of the developed world. Hedges provide a web of habitat for bees, small birds and a myriad of insects including the beneficial insects.

Reasons why hedges have disappeared:

empty-life1. The modern pursuit of perfection has eliminated many of the skills and resources of the Romanticism era. Yet a tidy world is an a truly empty one and many people strive to reconnect with nature.

2. Hedges have died out of use in rural areas due to industrial scale farming machinery. In urban areas it is due to the great population and housing boom pushing out farms on the edges of the cities. Today, few communities can afford the space to reintroduce hedges. They introduce trees because people can walk under and around individual trees.

3. The third reason why hedges have died out of use is the increase in the transmission of invasive species. Hedges in conservation areas can encourage invasive species and can be harder to maintain.

The easy solution is to build living fences that are narrow, strong and acceptably ‘tidy’.  If you have an existing fence, start planting shrubbery along it now. This shrubbery can be pleached together as it grows. You can espalier fruit trees such as fig, apricot, mulberry, pomegranate, brazilian cherry, blueberries, jabuticaba, sage, daisy, hibiscus, carob, olive, tea camellia. If you choose small trees and shrubs you will have less maintenance and low-growing fruit. If you need people-stoppers try thorny lemons, finger-limes, sugar-cane, and other medium height spiky plants. Put low growing or dense edibles at the base ie. Dianella caerulea, Arrowroot, begonia, jerusalem artichokes and lemongrass.

If you don’t have a an existing fence to support and protect your young living fence you can build a woven fence. Use random prunings in the simple weave, make stakes out of strong branches (simply trim any unwanted growth if it occurs) and incorporate the cuttings of the species you want for your living fence beside the strong stakes used in the fence. The woven fence will support and protect your cuttings.


Trees – The Gentlest Superheros of All Time



Every single day – a tree transforms sunlight and water into:

Fuel – Wood and Oils, Food, Forage, Fodder, Structural timber, Conservation Habitat, Carbon Sequestration, Soil Management, Water management, Oils, Nuts, Fruits, Edible leaves, Mulch, Shelter, Animal barrier and fodder, Fungi Habitat above and below the ground, Alcohol, Cloud seeding (fungi and dust), Temperature regulation (cooling hot air, warming cold air), Wind and Frost mitigation and many more powerful acts.

Practical and Pretty Ferrocement

“Ferrocement Steps with Lace and Wild Tiles” sounds like an exotic recipe yet our Ferrocement creations are made very simply. They are practical (a step or water retention basin) and pretty. It costs nothing more than a pinch of pizazz and time to add frills to the functional creation.

Previous Image
Next Image

info heading

info content

We use whatever materials we already have on hand. We buy only a bag of Cement, and combine this with reclaimed gravel, off cuts of wire mesh a bit of old lace and some broken tiles or ceramics. We use old bricks and dirty gravel as the aggregate and as the tint.

Making cement is easier than cooking, all you have to do is make sure you mix it well, then leave it to bake. As it bakes we add pretty impressions or embedded broken tiles. We tap the tiles into place with the end of a hammer and simply press the concrete up to the sides of the tiles with a gloved finger.

Timing is everything for adding the decoration. We make the concrete (mix of cement and an aggregate of reused gravel or sandy soil) fairly sloppy, like soft-serve ice-cream.  When it wobbles like a Buddha’s tummy, you can embed tiles into it. As the concrete mix gets slightly firmer, you can put lace on it and press that in gently so the lace is partially covered. Wait until the sheen on the concrete is gone and the surface is powdery, then lift the lace away carefully to leave the imprint.

As soon as the surface powdery dry, wipe each tile with a clean dry rag. If you miss a bit during the tile-cleaning you can come back later using a tiny bit of vinegar on a small fresh rag tied to the end of a stick for precision, but it is much easier to do the cleaning before the cement sets rock hard.

The full cost of making this step (which also doubles as a water catchment and directing platform) was $5 cement, recycled broken bricks, old lace curtain (we last used this as part of our emergency bee handling kit) and tiles.

Permaculture and Building Young Leaders

Do you know a young person who needs to build self-confidence, feel empowered and keen to set themselves goals?

The Crossing in Bermagui is a great permaculture training site and has opportunities for young people and aims to build their leadership skills.

S2S [Sea2Snow] 2015

‘Get into the wild and find yourself’

8 Sea to Snow positions left for Year 9-11 students.

Sea to Snow S2S 2014

Only 7 guys and 7 girls are admitted.   Apply for the 3 day training camp now!

For bookings see: Sea 2 Snow training

‘Leadership with altitude!’

July Hands-On Permaculture Design Course

This permaculture design was created by April 15 years ago and has travelled the world extensively. It has been used to promote courses and workshops in many countries.
This permaculture design was created by April 15 years ago and has traveled the world extensively. Good design never dates.

Permaculture Visions Instructor, April Sampson-Kelly is co-teaching this course. Permaculture Design Certificate Course (PDC) 6th to 18th July 2015 Sydney.
For the ultimate PDC experience the Permaculture Sydney Institute offers its winter PDC with some of Sydney’s experienced permaculture elders – Penny Pyett, April Sampson Kelly, Peter Brecknock and other special guests. Each has well-established credentials in permaculture. They also have well established permaculture properties and experience designing and developing many others. They have worked professionally in Permaculture teaching, designing and consulting for over 15 years as well as participating in the broader permaculture community in a voluntary capacity.

The PDC at the beautiful and very lush Banksia Country Retreat
makes it not just a course but also a very special two-week experience in style and comfort: log fires, wholesome food and luxurious facilities you will never forget. A heavily discounted PDC accommodation package enables you to immerse yourself totally in an on-site permaculture experience of a lifetime.

This is the final PDC offered at the extraordinary value of $1495 including meals.

The Institutes traditional PDC, as designed by Bill Mollison, is taught globally using the “Designers Manual” as the curriculum. Upon completion of the PDC Participants receive the PDC Certificate as issued by the Permaculture Institutes with global recognition.
Inquiries phone Penny:


Look Deep Into Nature

Permaculture is a design tool for building a better lifestyle. Observation is what helps a good design to respond, adapt and endure. Passion and ethics are what drive the change. “Look deep into nature, and you will understand everything better.”  Albert Einstein

By building our observation skills we can become faster learners, and more responsive to our bodies, our relationships and our community.



The Difference Between Permaculture and Better Farming is Simple

Permaculture is a Design Science. In Permaculture we look at how energy is captured, used and re-used in our efforts to feed, clothe, transport and educate our society.  We optimise the use of natural energies, engage and empower people to meet their own needs and ensure that the waste is well used and re-used. Essentially, we search for a way to close the system.

Permaculture examines the Energy and flow – 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.

The big difference between a permaculture site and a farm is that a farm is a very open system, the farms nutrients are shipped off to market forever and so there is constant need to regenerate the soil through good soil-building practices and importing resources. although the world desperately needs good farming practices, we also need permaculture systems where people can help produce what they need, where they live and can feed the waste back into their permaculture sites.

Community Garden Sheffield Tasmania Austrlaia
Community Garden Sheffield Tasmania Australia


Hybrid Learning Path

Permaculture Visions now offers a hybrid blend of online and face-to-face intensive workshops.  See our current workshops here. Workshop participants also have access to our comprehensive notes for that topic.

This learning pathway gives you the chance to do some of our face-to-face workshops as part of your PDC. You may also get RPL [Recognition of Prior Learning] from other permaculture institutions.

hybrid studies


Art Of Permaculture Intensive Workshop

Art of Permaculture Intensive Workshop to be held at Sydney Permaculture Institute. Imagine if there was a chance that you could express the complex ideas in Permaculture creatively with clarity and power.


About Art and Permaculture

Do you sometimes have an idea you find hard to express? Do you wish you could simplify things so others can better understand? Do you want to enrich your projects with good promotional material? Join us in exploring your artistic side, building skills and learn the basics of communicating powerfully and quickly.Image3

Art has always asked the difficult questions. It has often been the brave voice of reason. And sometimes the shining light in troubled times. Through Art we can help make a difference:

  • Stimulate self questioning,
  • Open discussion
  • Build awareness and
  • Inspire people to create changes and
  • Empower people to become part of a beautiful and productive solution.

About the Trainer – April Sampson-Kelly

Image1aApril has been teaching permaculture for 20 years and in more than 60 countries. Because she teaches permaculture online, using her own text and to many people who need visual prompts, her artwork has traveled the world. Permaculture is a very complex design system and requires a lot of different skills to be understood and practiced well.  Her artworks first set up to explain a lot of the tricky concepts in Permaculture. She has also done a range of permaculture designs for clients in Australia and abroad.

April started with a Masters degree in creative arts and has been successful in various artistic projects. She started as an accomplished musician, composer, and lyricist. Her inspiration began as she and her family began building their permaculture food forest in Wollongong 20 years ago. April started teaching permaculture online in 1993 and in her goal to present permaculture in plain English with lots of images and illustrations; she started developing different artistic media to develop permaculture education. She noticed that through art her permaculture clients and fellow educators are able to illustrate, communicate and inspire permaculture ideas. Now her work has traveled the world to promote permaculture. She and her son were the illustrators for the logo for 2014 International Permaculture Day.   Some of her permaculture graduates have been inspired to design permaculture card games, more teaching tools and beautiful graphics.

Workshop Outcomes

During this workshop you will explore all the amazing ways Art can influence design and empower you to explore your concepts. From Patterns through to details we will explore various media, learn their limitations, skills required and find different media that enables you to convey ideas. Even if you think you have no artistic flair, you will be encouraged to explore your ideas and build your creative realm.  With April’s unique combination of a deep knowledge of permaculture and  passionate artistic background you can build the skills to create  inspiring, beautiful and memorable designs. This is one of her iconic designs that have been top in online search ranking for over 10 years.


The Art of Permaculture

This workshop is for: permaculture designers; landscape architects and designs; design students; teachers; artists; community and school garden designers; anyone interested in art for self skill development and fun.

Workshop Program

  • What is your definition of Art? What different art forms can we explore (realism, fictional and propaganda)?
  • Recognise how art has been integral and powerful in helping permaculture and environmental issues be better understood in the world.
  • Discuss the types of design platforms, advantages and limitations (from spatial art through to software).
  • The basics of design, how the permaculture principles can be applied to our workplace and lifestyle.
  • Discover your unique aesthetic, find you art mentors/idols, determine if you are visual, aural, or kinesthetic.
  • Explore reactive versus proactive Art.
  • Determine where mainstream is and how you may be able to communicate to mainstream without compromising your goals and preferred techniques.
  • Know your market
  • Discuss what challenges artists face (i.e. writers block, client relationships)
  • Define your goals and become empowered through focusing on how to get your passion to pay.
  • Find out how to create employment, find your right-livelihood as a communicator and artist.
  • Pitfalls and benefits of being self-employed.
  • Discuss ways to overcome copyright concerns.
  • Ways to collaborate with other artists and ideas people.

You will set your own goals, define your priorities and create the beginnings of new artworks. There will be lots of exercises in quick fixes, fun cheats, a little light-hearted art-soul searching and most of all an exploration of tools for staying inspired, connected to nature and making powerful permaculture messages.

All artworks shown are the work of April Sampson-Kelly.

Book me in!





Peak Permaculture

Humans have affected climate for a long time, even as early as the bronze age. The greatest possible human effect would be Peak-Permaculture: the time when most people are mindful of their impact on the earth and each other. Peak Permaculture will be a time when designing to reduce waste and striving to create and live a more connected and productive lifestyle comes effortlessly and naturally. There will be natural rewards such as pride in living in a beautiful world, enjoying native animals, insects and birds interacting with us, living with healthy lungs and powerful hearts.

Peak Permaculture


Helping the Hungry Feed Themselves

Helping the Hungry Feed Themselves is the motto of the The Most Expansive Food Database in the world. This database is accessible and beautiful and is supported by a genuine passion to serve all humanity. Bruce French and his family have collated a wide range of food plants around the world.


“Bruce French, founder of FPI Food Plants International, was living in Papua New Guinea at the time and noticed that many villagers suffered disease and malnutrition, often while surrounded by nutritious food plants.

It wasn’t that they didn’t know anything about their local plants, but there were clearly a lot more edible plants than were readily recognised. Also, there was very little nutritional information available about the plants. Bruce also observed that most of the information taught in agricultural colleges related to temperate plants commonly produced in Western agriculture.

From these humble beginnings, Bruce set out to document the food plants of Papua New Guinea, an effort that soon spread to include the entire world of food plants.”  http://foodplantsinternational.com/articles/


The Largest Herd On Earth

“Bob” Brown is an Australian former politician, medical doctor, environmentalist, former Senator and former Parliamentary Leader of the Australian Greens. Bob gave the opening address to the 12th Australian Permaculture Convergence March 2015.
What fires my boilers is being here with 200 Permaculturalists. If the world was run by you we would be fine.” Bob also pointed out that the human race is the largest herd of mammals to have grazed the earth.



Permaculture and The Emergence of Big Business

Permaculture has achieved what the movement wished. In just a couple of decades it has been embraced by mainstream.  It has become a common word and is now having to shine its boots and pull up its socks.
In the early years, businesses in permaculture was frowned upon. It didn’t seem fair to allow commercialism to profit from a grass-roots movement that had ethics and empowerment at it’s heart. In some cases the frowning came most unfairly from people who had secure paid work in permaculture-related fields (teachers, writers, lecturers in sociology, mental health advocates, organisers of festivals and conferences etc).
If it is ok to have a job related to permaculture, then surely it is ok to have a business in permaculture. In fact it is more than ok, without people in small permaculture businesses, we wouldn’t have the magazines, the news articles, the suppliers of rare plants, animals, biochar, worm-farms etc.

Most of the functions that are needed for the permaculture movement today have been filled by enterprises such as Permaculture businesses and social media enterprises (google, facebook etc).
A few impressive tools have come out of community-based projects such as wikipedia, libre-office, farm-hack, TED (and other online communities)

The activities that have truly helped permaculture flourish in the last decade include:

  • the creation of large data-bases with records showing providence of teachers
  • standards for the Permaculture Design Course and Diploma courses,
  • networks for guilds,
  • good demonstration gardens and villages.
  • good marketing strategies,
  • promotion, funding, organising and facilitation of guest speakers, talk-tours etc
  • Information/resources including magazines, news articles and books
  • video clips, animation to document sucesses over time and how these came about.

Most of these functions would never have been able to be organised and funded by an independant centralised global Permaculture Association. Luckily, existing skilled business people have had their finger on the pulse and jumped in to build these assets.
But it is important that we remind permaculture businesses that there is more reward in their efforts than just money and power. They can become leader in world business practices by building good business ethics into their permaculture businesses.
Without business ethics a successful business quickly rises to become a powerful corporatehood. Corporations crush competitors by undercutting, restricting supply and flooding the market.
Corporate-hood has become a business phenomenoa recognised well in the USA with vocal, massive backlash from communities. Corporations in the USA have become so powerful that they have earnt almost equal rights as individuals. They certainly can afford better legal representation, and have the funds to campaign for the things that will make them bigger.
Bigger is not always better. In permaculture we talk about limits to growth as well as fair share and valuing diversity.
Good permaculture business practise

  • enables all the workers to obtain a local and enriching livie-hood,
  • shares excess by supporting other permaculture projects,
  • does not demand exclusivity at the cost of limiting a supplier to work elsewhere,
  • sets up systems that acknowledge the good work of others,
  • has marketing that is honest and fair (do your research before making bold claims of “being the biggest or the first or the only”)
  • reflects the ethics of permaculture
  • sets limits to growth
  • reinvests earnings in local people and environment
  • acknowledges we are all standing on the shoulders of giants and nurtures others to follow them by establishing honorable practices
  • holds the torch for sustainable [ISO14000] and ethical practices.
Permaculture Principle: Set limits and redistribute surplus
Permaculture Principle: Set limits and redistribute surplus

About the author:
April Sampson-Kelly began her main small permaculture business [permaculturevisions.com] in 1993, she presented a paper at the Perth International Permaculture Conference in 1996 to open discussion and help to infant businesses. She comes from a long line of women who have had their own businesses. She learnt how to run a business by listening to and joining in conversations around the kitchen table as a child. Her mother’s last business was as systems consultant and quality auditor. She learnt about systems whilst working part-time for her mother. She never borrows money nor seeks funding for a project. She demands that the income from a project be much more than just cash earnings. She invests in local suppliers, employs others casually and supports them in their own side ventures. She always starts small and sets limits so she can have a life outside that business and includes a succession plan.  She is presenting a paper on Art of Permaculture at the next national conference in Tasmania, then facilitating a think-tank at London IPCUK. She is also involved in “Next Big Step” Global permaculture group.

Growing Food Indoors

Even when the weather is wild outside, we can grow food indoors. Rooms that have some sunlight can have plants growing at the sill. Lots of yummy sprouts love the cozy indoors. Indoor plants also help improve air quality by trapping dust and toxins then releasing healthier air. Caring for plants also improves our mental well being. Best of all, a growing plant reminds of us of our our own need for natural light, when the plant is happy, the conditions are better for us too.


Paulo Mellett Scholarship

This year we granted a full scholarship in honour of Paulo Mellett. The scholarship recipient is Eurico, a recent migrant from Brazil who plans to better his life, his family’s health and share the experience  with gratitude.

Paulo Mellett helped translate our work at the International Permaculture Convergence in Cuba 2013 and has sadly passed away since.  We wish to celebrate his humble yet powerful influence and continue to bridge the gap between rich and poor, detached and sensitive cultures, dysfunctional and harmonious societies.

In honour of Paulo Mellett we have created and awarded a full scholarship.

We aim to keep the memory of Paulo Mellett, his work and ambition alive through investing good will in others. Join us, pass on the good will in your own teaching and demonstration of sustainable living.

Credit: Sculpture by Herman A McNeil The Moqui Runner Chicago Museum of Art


Durable Beauty

Cordwood construction exercises patience. When we don’t wait for the timbers to fully dry before the installation they crack and let breezes through.  The binding materials also needs to dry very slowly to be strong and durable.  It even starts with an exercise in patience with the planning, sourcing of matching bottles, cutting the tops of pieces to fit and taping them top-to-top.

Patient planning, selection and preparation can create spectacular durable constructions.  Here is an excellent example from Kinstone Permaculture USA