Set Your Goals Last

Build Values First

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

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

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

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

Core Values for Social Permaculture Design

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

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

[*Names have been changed for privacy reasons.]

Discover your core principles and enjoy the discovery.

Happy new year from us at Permaculture Visions.

Design Theory Into The Zones

Zones for a house on a hilltop

Where is it?

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

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

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

Zones for Efficiency

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

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

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

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

Applying Permaculture Zone Theory To Design Of A Bag

Get Your Nest of Zones

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

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

What about Zone 0 you may ask?

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

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



Ferment Your Future & Build Nutrition

dancing ferments

Seriously Good Ferments

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

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

Ella with her Kombucha
Ella loves Kombucha

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

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

Reigning Preservatives

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

Ferments survive because they are enjoyed!

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

Science of Ferments

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

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

Frida enjoying a few fresh coffee fruits

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

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

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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.


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



Self-Reliance Not Self-Sufficiency

difference between self-reliance and self-sufficiency

Self-Reliance Is Empowering

You could be forgiven if you thought that permaculture was about self-sufficiency. Self-sufficiency is not the idealised ‘GOOD LIFE’ as speculated in the 70’s by BBC.  If you want long days of lonely, repetitive hard work and the very real risk of starvation and disease, then self-sufficiency would be for you.

Alternatively, if you are looking for a lifestyle that connects you with nature and your neighbours, boost your Self-Reliance.

In a nut-shell, Self-reliance enables empowerment through increased local production by giving, trading and/or sharing. ‘Self-Reliance’ values and cares for the weak and the elderly. Self-Reliance has the power to  strengthen community connections, improve our health and the planet’s health.

Community Values You

Permaculture promotes a sense of community. The basic ethic of Caring for People drives us to build better communities. By consulting the community we design adaptable  structures – physical and invisible. Physical structures include social hubs, educational and recreational areas.  Invisible structures include trading centers, banking systems and news exchange facilities.

Supercharged Design

winter harvest_croppedPermaculture designs for whole ‘villages’ not just individual households. This increases the efficiency of the waste cycles. Resources (physical, intellectual, social) are more immediate and usable. At best, the cycle of local production and disposal of the waste are tightly connected.

Self Reliance Grows By Sharing


Frequent exchange of little resources requires very little planning. In a busy community, resources are shared, traded and loaned. ‘Hand-me-downs’ are passed on as needed. Harvests and meals are casually shared. Valuable and timely knowledge is offered informally.

One of the most obvious features of this ‘informal’ economy is that the consumer and producer meet. They tend to be kind to one another. In his free e-book, Permaculture Strategy for the South African Villages Terry Leahy explores the power of the gift economy. The gift economy fulfills the permaculture principle of ‘working where it counts’.

Self Reliance builds Self Esteem


Many farmers work in isolation with heavy budget pressures.  On a large property, farming is time-consuming, lonely and destructive.

In surprising contrast to this, small holdings can be highly productive and rewarding. This works especially well when the local community supports local food production directly through farmers markets.

Given that Rural suicide is significantly higher than urban, healthy relationships are the key to survival. When farmers need assistance (psychological, medical and veterinary services) help needs to be close at hand. Enriching the community bonds through localised trade helps to build bridges and understanding.

Owning a large property is huge responsibility

ladies-morning-meeting-in-glasshouse-market-gardenLarge properties have heavy maintenance requirements. The cost of neglect can increase the risk of disasters such as fire. A community management team can help share this responsibility and combine resources for tree loping, noxious weeds control, soil erosion management, water pollution filtration, and emergency response.

Elders adopt the ‘benefactor’ model

Self reliant eldersElders can share their workload whilst mentoring young people. Sharing your resources, skills and know-how creates a closer-knit community.

This is known as the ‘benefactor’ model. This model works well for Polyface farms and other small communities. As a result, a succession of skilled people in a specialist field is ensured.

Permaculture values people as well as our environment.

Build your own self-reliance skills. Enrol with us today.

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Learning in Grass Room

Rose and the big leaf

child looking in wonder Learning – Out of this World

In outdoor spaces the learning experience is different. The air can be refreshing and the noise stops bouncing off the walls. Being outdoors boosts our physical and mental health. Best of all, we can create an opportunity to slow down and reduces stress for students and their teachers!

Lower the Maintenance, Up the Rewards

Mesh tables positioned over narrow garden beds are a great way to reduce clean-up time and conserve precious soil. Furthermore, the garden beds are tucked away safely from accidental damage by foot-traffic.  On sloped sites, the ideal position of the table is along the contour.  This provides a choice of access points. In addition to the good water management and plant protection, students can choose their preferred work height.

mesh table saves soil and clean-up time after learning

A Safe and Secure Glade

Boundary plantings enable everyone to relax and enjoy the learning space. When we set boundaries, children feel free to wander and explore within that space. The student no longer needs to look back to the teacher for consent about where they may wander.

Design a bountiful and safe learning glade. These edges can contain a richly layered thicket of trees, shrubs, vines and tall grasses. Furthermore, edge plantings help to soften the boundary and can provide a sense of coziness and belonging.  Tall edge plantings can also provide wind protection. Sissinghurst Gardens achieve a sense of enchantment and familiarity by incorporating old walls and furniture shapes in the outdoor ‘rooms’.

setting boundaries provides safe learning spaces

Education and Food – Get a Double Helping

savouring-jackfruitFood defines our culture. It also unites people. Nearly everyone has opinions on foods and a curiosity about how it grows. The beauty of putting food plants in the learning environment is that they are generally safe plants. You could include useful plants that are non-toxic, non-irritant and low in allergy risk. Here is our list of permaculture plants for warm temperate zone.

Tall useful plants include sunflower, Jerusalem artichoke, Yacon, giant sage, bamboo for poles to make tents, flags, arches, trellises and garden-edge fencing. Good plant species for weaving projects include mulberry and sturdy vines such as grape-vine, kiwi-fruit, passion-flower.  The garden classroom can be a great resource for learning about construction techniques of aboriginal and other traditional shelters.

There are some exciting food plants. These include native foods (bush tucker and survival foods), culinary flowers and exotic spices.

Playful Spaces

Playful spaces have viewing platforms, resting nooks, perches, undulating paths and sweeping curves. In addition to your resilient and engaging landscape, you can add toys like little bridges, solar fountains, windmills, flags, scare-crows, signs, arches, ponds with hand-pumps, cascades and Archimedes screws.

snake-paths mounded garden beds for good water management

Make Your Outdoors Great

Great spaces have two vital features: function and creative flair. The functional elements include paths that run along the contour. This provides good water management, erosion control and conservation of nutrients.  The functional garden harvests, absorbs and directs water. Furthermore, the beds trap silt, build soil and fertility.

Creative play enhances functionality.  For instance, the functional paths can double as seating spaces for an audience. The stage can be a simple platform below. This platform can also be multi-functional. It can be used as a demonstration space, meeting point,  a bird-hide, construction space (using construction plants like sunflower stems) or a work-zone.

Ultimately, the garden becomes a thriving space for creative and imaginative play.

Build your own permaculture system. Enjoy learning permaculture with us.

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Wicking – Amazing

transported raised beds at Earth Keepers in Buxton NSW

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.]


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


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

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

Natural Wicking


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.


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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Learning Outside Boosts Learning Within

 Step Outside and Enhance Your Learning


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