Tag Archives: design

Zones for a house on a hilltop

Design Theory Into The Zones

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.

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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.

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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.

confusion

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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Liberty Chic Fights Waste

Eliminate Your Food Losses

How to reduce food waste

9 year old hen and her chicks

  1. Take control of your well-being and cook for yourself. You’re worth it
  2. Plan the menu to dish up the healthy foods you love and are in season
  3. Check what is in the cupboard before it expires
  4. See what is growing in your garden
  5. Write a shopping list
  6. Buy locally made alternatives
  7. Make your own sauces
  8. Buy seasonally available food
  9. Buy whole foods that will store well
  10. Let people serve themselves at the table
  11. Thai Basil and mint: home-grown teas

    Store food correctly to reduce pests in the kitchen such as weevils and cockroaches

  12. Eat the Leftovers in curries, pies, pasties, pasta sauces, on pizzas and in lasagna or soups.
  13. Have a rat-proof system of feeding leftovers to your chickens in the mornings, then put remainder in a metal enclosed worm-farm at night.
  14. Turn your scraps back into food. Grow pumpkins and tomatoes from the seed. Grow ginger, sweet potato and shallots from a small piece of the tuber.

Feathered Friends

Each morning, chickens are ready and keen to work. They strive to convert food-waste to fertiliser. Gobbling scraps and frolicking in the garden is their idea of chicken-heaven.  A little training may be required to teach old chickens to try new foods.  One way to start your chickens eating the food waste is to offer them scraps each morning before offering them seed. A permaculture design helps you manage your chickens. It designs spaces for them to access a lot of their needs and it uses zoning and other design tools to absorb their products such as manure, dust and noise.

Superb Self-Motivated Workers

chic in egg getting ready to tend the garden

Chickens do a lot more than just eat your scraps. Dancing a funny kind of shuffle, scratching to aerate the soil then trimming the edges of the garden paths are natural activity for chickens. Most Chickens like to bathe in a dust bath which they make for themselves. Design their space to give them access to a dusty corner. Add diatomaceous earth to keep the bugs away.

Ancient Hunters

Rooster defends against predatorsIn addition to all these natural attributes, chickens will hunt. They eat snails, baby snakes and a lot of insects pests and beneficial. So, you do need to manage them. They will also eat your food before you do. How can the docile domesticated chicken be expected to know what you want to eat or keep in the garden? If they like your scraps, then you can bet they will prefer them fresh. The hens will probably like to eat your favourite herbs and veggies. You are their master, guide them well with fencing. Fencing also keeps them safe from predators like dogs and foxes.

Kryptonite for Chickens

a tad of fowl confusionNot all chickens like the same foods, just the same and you and me. They will most of our scraps however, there are some you should not feed to them.  We never feed our hens raw egg-shell because we don’t want them to get a taste for raw egg and start eating eggs in the nests. We pop the egg-shells into a metal bowl and store it in the oven. The shells dry out and get baked in the next preheat. When we open the door to put a dish in the oven out comes the baked egg shells. They are crushed with the end of cup and more shells are put on top. Eventually we feed the lot to the hens as part of their shell grit.

Chickens Mow

Mowing is another chicken specialty. Your hens will help mow the grass. They are not super neat but if you put grain along the edges they will start there. Build your flock gradually. Start with just a couple and slowly build the numbers two by two. If you get the right ratio of chickens to grass, there will be no bare earth. Two bantam chickens can neatly graze an established lawn of 1/8 acre. However, If you notice the lawn area is suffering over the winter, simply lock them in a straw yard.  As spring approaches, your hens will bound out ready to work. These animated balls of fluff fertilise your garden with their manure and feathers. Ultimately, it is clever design of the garden layout and fencing that will give you management options.

A Daily Gift

home-grown eggs and sprouts

At the end of the day you might even get some of their world-loved eggs. Eggs are the best protein and conveniently delivered in their handy little hard-cased compost-able packaging – Egg shells!

If chickens were as popular as cats and dogs, 
the world's food waste would be halved

Get cracking on your permaculture design skills today

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transported raised beds at Earth Keepers in Buxton NSW

Wicking – Amazing

The Lazy Gardener’s Dream

Wicking garden beds are:

brains before brawn. Information and Observation replaces Energy

  • robust
  • low-maintenance
  • compact
  • highly productive
  • transportable (take your garden or farm with you)
  • suitable for hard surfaces including parking lots and roof-tops
  • a great way to use space underneath trees, not competing with the tree roots
  • able to be constructed and maintained without great physical strength. Perfect for families
  • suitable for wheelchair users and people who don’t want to bend over all day.
  • no dig, no carbon released into the atmosphere, no pain
  • less likely to get trashed by your chickens

Wicking beds can be built in large tubs, baths, barrels, ponds or raised beds with a lining. However, if you too want to avoid plastics, you can recycle an old rainwater tank, a bathtub, a wooden barrel or large old commercial food tin.

What’s Wicking?

Chicken drinking with strawWicking is a simple technique of letting water be sucked up as required by the plants. Think of a drinking straw. The straw works by creating a vacuum at the top. The water rises to fill that vacuum. In a similar way, the soil and plants can wick up water as they use it. All we need to do is ensure: 1. there is a constant supply of water available at the base and 2. enough wicking material to transport the water.

Good ‘ol Osmosis

Osmosis is nature’s way of transporting water through the soil and plants. Osmosis happens when we soak ourselves in a bath for a long time. Our skin gets puffy and wrinkled. Organic matter in soil soaks up the water one cell to another.

Earth Keepers excellent soil

Plants transpire water during the day and the sun dries out the surface of the land. This creates a vacuum of water at the top. Soil that is rich in organic materials, can carry moisture up to the dry surface by osmosis. [Remember to use mulch to reduce water loss.]

Stacking

Jeremy Yau of Sydney has lots of wicking beds because space is at a premium. And the surrounding trees give the home valuable shade in summer. Jeremy employs the permaculture principle of stacking. He has placed some wicking beds beneath tall trees in the chicken run. Some of the wicking tubs contain large shrubs. His chickens roam around the mini food jungle without being tempted to trash the plants. In fact, they get to nibble anything hanging over from the sides in a run that would normally be empty of pickings.

jeremy-yau's-place

The most valuable feature of a garden made of wicking beds is transportability. When you relocate, you can hire some heavy lifting gear to take the garden with you or sell the garden separately.

The technique of water wicking can be used in all garden beds. However, wicking is particularly valuable for difficult areas ie. boggy soil, hard-pan soil, rock or concrete slabs.

Natural Wicking

mound-garden-swale-water---cross-sectional-view

A primary goal in a permaculture design is to reduce soil erosion and nutrient loss. This is achieved by slowing the movement of water in the landscape. The addition of wicking gardens lets the soil and plants draw their own water.

Firstly, use garden mounds, ponds and above-ground trenches to trap the rain water and allow it to seep through. Secondly, use edge materials that resist erosion but have gaps to allow water to percolate through. These materials include papier-mache, rocks and recycled loose bricks. Finally, ensure that the gardens consist of rich high organic matter because this allows wicking to occur. You can add wicking material such as old jute or hessian bags at the base of the garden beds.

The Resilient Bog

If you are lucky to have boggy soil, then you can simply build the garden beds on top. Pile on the compost, put in a chicken dome, then plant it out. The height required depends on what you wish to grow, how much it rains and how the size of the reservoir of water.  Experiment with a mixture of shallow (ie. Lettuce, tomato) and deep-rooted (kale, Spinach, carrots). The water in the boggy ground below will wick up if the soil in the bed is full of rich organic material.

Purple Pear NSW use-climbing-annuals-as-windbreak--natural-wicking

Purple Pear in the Hunter Valley NSW., Australia is a busy community supported agricultural farm. With years of patient composting they have created lush and abundant gardens on a boggy field. They use bathtub wicking beds for their carrot crops and use the bog-based mandala gardens for leafy greens.

wicking-beds-in bathtubs Purple Pear

Wicking Delights on Rock

Most gardeners wouldn’t dream of setting their food gardens on rock or concrete. But then, most gardeners are not as inventive or determined as food gardeners. In a permaculture design we put the food close to where we can observe its needs and readiness. So the position is partially dependent on the site conditions but mostly on the end-user’s needs.

When creating gardens on rock, choose areas where the rock is flat with a shallow basin. This dish shape will form a hanging swamp and a good lens of water for wicking. If you don’t want the path to be the pool of water, dig a small trench on the high side. Earthkeepers in Buxton NSW built many of their gardens on bedrock.

mound-garden

You can WOOF or make an appointment to visit Purple Pear or EarthKeepers. They are great examples of mature permaculture gardens and the hosts have decades of experience.

If you want to do a workshop on Easy earthworks join an upcoming workshop on our site.

Study Permaculture with us at Permaculture Visions.

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Free From Techno-Confusion

Be Freed from Confusion About New Technologies

confusionThe brave step of supporting a new technology can be full of confusion.  Techno-confusion is mounting as more, and more technologies are invented. The world is desperately searching for technological improvement to help solve climate uncertainty.  [Permaculture is one technological and cultural solution.] Yet even as we discover healthy technologies, humanity will continuously aim to reduce inefficiencies.

Everyone wants to be part of the solution. Many of understand why it is good to search for clean and efficient technologies. But most of us are confused about ‘how to tell what is best’

Joy_Of_Understanding_Permaculture_Visions

How can we rid ourselves of confusion, build our confidence; make informed decisions; remain unswayed by emotion; ignore slick sales pressures and side-step [or lead] new fashion trends?

At PermacultureVisions we created a decision tool to help you determine your own values and priorities. It may also lead you to consider environmental aspects.  The least it can do is help save you time and money.

Master the Art of Decision Making

get an apLectures are useful to get up to speed on facts and figures. Tutoring helps you understand the factors in those decisions. Mentoring guides you as you tailor the choices to suit your individual needs. The table  below is part of our mentorship and teaching program.  Instead of telling you what to buy, like a sales team, we would rather help you make technological choices.

How Can I Compare All the Different Technologies Available?

We can evaluate new technologies and compare like products when we consider each feature and cost. Here is a guide to help you compare technologies or products with similar purpose. This evaluation tool was developed with our students Morgan Stephens, Tessha Mearing, and Penny Cross.

home-grown-teasThe aim of this tool is to equip permaculture designers with a means to evaluate a new technology themselves rather than being told what is best. Technologies change rapidly, so advise can get conflicting and the technology efficiency is dependent on the context of the user.

You can set your own rating value. This will reflect how important this aspect or feature is in your choice. Sit back with a cuppa, set the priorities and enjoy!

GO TO THE COMPARISON TABLE HERE

Be An Innovator

My_Car_Future-top-slice

The consumer can become the leader.  The consumer can test, adapt, and develop techniques and strategies. We can give informed feedback to the product-developers. If the product has modular parts, we often find new uses and by-products . Further inventions can be lead by the grass-roots users.

Be mentored in Your Permaculture Journey

Do a permaculture course with us today.

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Is Permaculture Design Different?

Unique Design Approach

Permaculture Design

  • uses patterns
  • builds on observation
  • enables a dynamic evolution of the design
  • strives for energy efficiency
  • imitates nature
  • strengthens connections
  • seeks biological solutions.

Patterns

mandala-cubaThere are a vast array of patterns in nature. Rarely are there naturally made straight lines. Machines operate in straight lines because they do things at speed and without feedback. When nature is in a hurry she too blasts a straight line. In day-to-day situation, most natural environments have very few straight edges.  When we aim to fit a growing system to a gentle landscape we will find curves fit comfortably.

Over time, the paths will move, the plants will begin to shape the site. This is when the permaculture design starts to adapt. We start to see the patterns forming as our design works with the nature of the landscape and the nature of the people connected to the land.

In the initial design, we can create patterns that in tune with the landscape. These patterns help the various elements to inter-relate harmoniously. The use of patterns ensures beauty, function and ease of use.

Observation

coffee tree flowersThrough observation, a site or social situation can inspire the design.  We can learn from the history of the site, the way the natural energies interplay. Observation is one of the most powerful tools in design. “To acquire knowledge, one must study; but to acquire wisdom, one must observe.”  ― Marilyn Vos Savant

Dynamic Evolution

adapt-to-environmental-change

A good permaculture design is like a bicycle [Bill Mollison]. When a bicycle is well designed, it is easy to adapt to changing conditions (it can go off-road, up a steep incline, or be used to carry a variety of loads).

In the garden, the dynamic design adapts to periods of drought and heavy rains.

A good design for a Social structure or economy will enable healthy dynamic response to changes. ie. The structure can expand and shrink as member numbers dictate, it can allow diversity of input and facilitate results with ease. “The most powerful species are those who adapt without losing their fundamental identity which gives them their competitive advantage” Charles Darwin

Energy Efficiency

bringing in sun-dried washing and little home grown tomatoesEfficiency ensures success in nature. Closing the nutrient and energy systems loops build efficiency. For every calorie of food grown near the back step, over a hundred calories of food-waste, transport energy and packaging material is avoided. Permaculture offers comfortable solutions on all scales: A balcony can produce food and a farm can be designed to reduce its impact on the remaining stands of native habitat.

Imitation Of Nature

beesThere is still much to learn from nature and how she operates.  We are all slowly benefiting from experiments with product bio-mimicry and new medicines. By imitating nature, we appreciate the need for a holistic approach in the designs.

Connections

Mutually beneficial connections between elements are vital in the permaculture design. Likewise, there can be webs of connections within other webs creating a rich network of systems. We can use zoning, sector planning and interconnection of elements to optimise energy exchanges.

relationship-of-elements-demo

Biological Solutions

tipi with edible vinesThere are two main types of investment we can engage: Procreative Vs Degenerative.  When we invest in living systems we build wealth. Whereas, as soon as we invest in a non-living product it begins to degenerate and unless we can use it continuously to generate income, it is simply loosing value.  for example: The car is one of the poorest investments a family can make unless it is in almost constant use. “Many people see an automobile as a social status symbol, but is the luxury component of an automobile worth the investment dollars?” [Forbes]
Biological tools, structures (like a shade tree rather than a shade house), plants, animals and people and have the potential to build wealth for many generations.

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Learning Outside Boosts Learning Within

 Step Outside and Enhance Your Learning

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Walking and being outdoor changes the brain. Students can become more creative, more observant and less stressed. There are many benefits for the students and the educators to step outside.

Sadly, teachers have a lot of administrative pressures. They have to ensure that they address the many areas of the curriculum. We can support teachers by offering them studies that explain which part of the curriculum the outdoor activities meet. Being outdoors boosts our physical and mental health.

Health, Movement & Exploration

Connecting children with nature reduces more harmonytheir stress. It also increases the chance of nature being less stressed by human impact. Connections with nature enable a child to understand how nature works and builds empathy for others and their respect for the natural environment on which their lives depend.

Nature-based activities can enrich the learning program. We can even go one step further and design an amazing garden class-room.

Nature-based Games & Activities

Rose and the big leafNature-based games are as old as …?

The process of re-discovering and developing nature-based games can be a lesson in history and creativity. What did children play with before plastic toys became abundant? This is a wonderful opportunity to build imagination. Encourage the children be part of this re-discovery.

unusual-foodsActivities include weather observations, seed-raising, ‘mini-beasts’ or ‘micro-creature’ measurements and mapping of their web-of-life, drawing and classification (worms, insects). Science experiments about pH, cooking and cultural discussions about food, hygiene and disease, microscopic adventures about fungi and bacteria, research into origins of medicinal plants and much more.

In the garden children can use tall sticks (ie. banana stems, sugarcane, sunflowers, artichokes, sage) as structural material to build tipis, towers or sculptures. The garden classroom can be a great resource for learning about aboriginal houses or traditional home structures, building and shelters. edible-basketWhether you build a full-size replica or models, the children learn how to use genuine natural resources like poles and natural rope.

Weaving with edible plant material (especially from strong vines like kiwi-fruit and passion-fruit) is a meditative and mathematical activity.  Food plants provide healthy, low allergy weaving and building materials.

What is brown and sticky? A stick of course!

Storytelling and Story writing

The range of light levels within a  garden allows children to find their ideal light level to suit their reading, writing and working. Storytelling in an open space can be difficult in the city if there is a lot of environment noise, or it can become a theatrical challenge. The garden classroom can designed to amplify the production. Outdoors, the story-teller has an excuse to dramatise the text in order to be heard.

The garden classroom is a fresh and ever-evolving space full of material for story writing. Children can explore new ways to tell a story or better grasp old poetry, the importance of traditional story-telling, the tribal ‘sense of place’, the dreamtime and ancient maps.

But the man from Snowy River let the pony have his head, 
And he swung his stockwhip round and gave a cheer, 
And he raced him down the mountain like a torrent down its bed, 
While the others stood and watched in very fear. [Banjo Paterson]

How Can We Design a Garden-Classroom

Apply Fundamental Permaculture Design Principles

bumble_bee_yellow_flowerPermaculture principles are a valuable tool to apply to learning and can guide our design of a productive learning space. There are various permaculture principles but here we can examine two of the fundamental permaculture principles:

1. Every element provides many functions
2. Every function is met by many elements.

For example:  a simple letter-box/mail-box is an element. It collects the mail, displays a house number, is a guidepost in heavy weather. It can also support a vine or can be, albeit unwittingly, an insect or arachnid  home. One of these  functions (the less desirable one) of ‘housing insects’ can be supported by various other elements i.e. hollow trees, bee boxes or the neighbours letter-boxes :>

1. Every Element provides many Functions

2. Every Function is met by many Elements

Permaculture Principles in the Learning Space:

  1. goddess-treeEvery Element in the learning space
    provides many Functions

    One of the elements in an outdoor space is a shade-tree. This shade tree can provide many other functions: wind and rain protection, leaf litter for mulch, poles, habitat for wildlife, a structure to hang a swing or decorative artworks, a play space.

  2. Etipi with edible vinesvery Function in the learning space met by many Elements.

    The function –  shade, can be  supported by many  other elements. We can use deciduous trees, domes, tipis frames with woven vines , suspended shade material (recycled sheets can be used), sun hats and/or umbrellas.  Children may enjoy painting and erecting old sheets or drop-cloths as an art project to add colour to the space. Poles can be gathered from fallen or pruned branches of nearby trees. Using recycled materials and resources from nature builds empowerment and problem solving.

have a giving spiritIdeally, the process of design consults the school staff, the community and the children. The design needs to be able to adapt to the changing community needs. Consulting the stakeholders helps us define the elements desired. Work with the shape of the land and do a full permaculture design with the confidence of knowing that compost resources will be abundant if the children deposit their food scraps and the garden. Maintenance workers can provide some weaving material as well as mulching material such as grass clippings.

Permaculture design for community garden

Engaging Community

pride in growing food and sharingThe school garden may be one the few green spaces in a city. Many of the residents near the school welcome the opportunity to participate in growing food, creating a beautiful gardens with the children and increasing habitat for birds and native bees.

Encourage the community to find ways to safely integrate adult participation. Perhaps the adults are active in a separate area at a separate time to the children. Hopefully there will be times when the whole community can come together to plant trees or tend the garden or celebrate the harvest.

“Now, you’re talking!”

coffee tree flowersThere are some food plants that get adults truly motivated. These include such as coffee bean and green-tea bushes, native foods (bush tucker and survival foods), culinary flowers and spices. If you are lucky to have immigrants living in your area, invite them to share their stories about food and spices and how it is traditionally grown and used.

What is brown and sticky? A stick of course!

“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. … There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature — the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.”
— Rachel Carson, Silent Spring

 

 

 

 

Transport: Driving Us Further Apart

The Tyranny of Distance

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

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

On Being Distant

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

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

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

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

Future of Eco-Transport

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

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

Cars of the future will need to be:

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

Permaculture is Not Idyllic Country Living

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

Culture Shift To Reduce Transport Needs

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

1. Celebrate Local Production

pride

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

2. Creative and Inventive

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

3. Sharing

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

Sharing can be:sharing-over-fence

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

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

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

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Classy Consumers Cut It

Good for Environment, Good for Me

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

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

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

citrus_butterflyNothing is Truly ‘At No Extra Cost’

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

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

Our Consumption Influences Production

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

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

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

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

Get Close and Personal

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

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

Gentle Footprints Can Wash Away

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

Am I a Silent Polluter?

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

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

Natural clothing fibers include:

ladybird on clover

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

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

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