Posts from the ‘Community’ category

A Courtyard Transformation

Transforming rundown spaces into beautiful, productive gardens is possibly my most favourite thing to do in the whole world. On our recent Permaculture Design Course we did just that for the Reseed Centre where we held the course, creating a kitchen garden for their kitchen and a space for their outdoor dining “room”.

Before we started it looked like this…

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While it had been a garden in the past, it was well overdue for a good overhaul and some careful design thinking to make sure it was resilient, hardy, edible and beautiful. Our design sketch below is what we came up with for this space. Simple, yet full of culinary and edible herbs, existing fruit trees/vines, nutrient cycling and an outdoor space for dining.

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Before our PDC started, this Reseed community cleared the area, making space for us to come in and do our thing.

Our first task was to make the paths to define the area we should/shouldn’t be walking. We dug a shallow ditch for this and back-filled it with a layer of cardboard and a thick layer of woodchips to prevent unwanted plants to grow and to help build soil. The woodchips attract fungi and over time will break down, forming beautiful humus which can then be shoveled onto the garden beds and replaced with fresh woodchips – it’s a great nutrient cycling process.

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We use cardboard without sticky tape and or heavy inks, you could also use newspaper – whatever is available to you. Before we lay it down, we soak it in water to make it a lot more attractive to members of the soil food web to break down. You can see Jo (below) doing a great job of this and keeping cool on a hot day – clever woman.

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We made our garden as a no-dig garden, however put a bit of a twist on it and followed Morag Gamble’s recommendation to put the newspaper/cardboard layer on top of the bed rather than directly on the original soil (the bottom). This has many benefits, as she outlines below…

  • The compost layer integrates more rapidly with the existing soil.
  • Soil flora and fauna quickly get to work without the barrier in between.
  • The compost layer stays a more moist and stable temperature under the paper layer.
  • The newspaper layer prevents weeds from growing in your garden, including the unwanted seeds from your compost. (Unless you are a master composter, there will be seeds in your compost).
  • Less nutrients from the compost are evaporated and lost.
  • Roots of plants can penetrate directly into the soil so stay hydrated longer, can access minerals and have increased resilience and stability.

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We had a ready supply of horse poo from a local (thanks Caroline), so used this despite it having a high grass see content. Putting the soaked cardboard on top (directly under the final mulch layer) will stop the majority of this seed popping up.

IMG_5434The poo crew (Brad, Shu, Graham & James) smashing it.

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To top the whole garden off, we put a thick layer of straw on to keep moisture in and inject even more organic matter into the soil. We planted the garden pretty much straight away. To do this, we punched holes through the cardboard exactly where we wanted the plants, added a small handful of mature compost, mixed this in with the horse poo and original soil and watered it all in.

12654614_1092317510802493_3266034440946739342_nJo and Lisa planting out the seedlings

We put some simple edging of recycled bricks around the whole space to contain it and planted the gardens out with a range of herbs and beneficial plants.

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Beneath the existing lemon tree we planted a border of garlic chives, a ring of clumping comfrey directly around the base of the lemon and the rest to nasturtiums, calendula and borage. A nice little guild of multi-functional plants, all useful, all beautiful.

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The keyhole path creates the shape of the main herb garden, allowing easy access to all points of the garden.

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We also made a worm farm seat to cycle nutrients from the kitchen and provide a bit of social infrastructure for the outdoor dining room. You can read about how we did this here.

IMG_5722Blake demonstrating the radness of the worm farm seat.

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While our Permaculture Design Courses are very much focused on design and not building garden beds, this was a valuable process to take our students through. We got to explain the design we did for this space, talk through our reasoning, implement it and then enjoy the space we created. A fantastic learning process and a beautiful legacy for this group of spunks to leave behind!

Interested in doing one of our Permaculture Design Courses? Check out our next one here.

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Lorinna

We’ve just taken our Permaculture Design Course students to a small town called Lorinna, a place which is beyond unique. Approximately 100 folks live here and a lot of them are aligned in how they choose to live life – mainly locally, sustainably, creatively and abundantly. Within the valley all types of produce is grown and raised including meat, grain, fruit and vegetables in both home and market gardens. A local food co-op lives at the community hall and an annual harvest feast marks the seasons and brings people together. It’s a special place.

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Our first stop for the day was Seven Springs Farm, established and run by Wouter and Elise. Wouter is originally from Belgium and has a long history in farming, specifically community supported agriculture. His depth of knowledge is incredibly valuable and his work ethic is out of this world – this guy is cranking it. They have a weekly stall at Launceston’s Harvest Feast market and supply local residents with some of the finest food around.

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They grow up to 70 different crops and only use heirloom and open-pollinated varieties to ensure high quality produce with great flavour. All their seedlings, potting mixes, solar and micro-hydro electricity are all produced on farm. They save seed and propagate their own vegetable varieties, with particular pride in Wouter’s Belgian cauliflower and leek.

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Our second stop was Annie and Bart’s home. These folks moved to Lorinna in the 1970s and some of the key people who make this place what it is. Particular highlights included their kitchen garden which is wrapped around part of their house (specifically their kitchen). It’s a pumping, vibrant little space overflowing with edibles and beautifuls.

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They also have a small glasshouse where they grow exciting things like ginger, that’s right *ginger*. Need proof? See the photo below with a proud Annie standing next to it.

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Bart drives the renewable energy on the property (and throughout the valley). They have solar, micro hydro and timber as their energy sources. By not relying on just one type of energy they ensure they never run out.

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Above and below you can see one of their electric quad bikes and golf buggies they use to get around the valley, they’ve retrofitted these themselves to be 100% electric. I want one.

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Bart and Annie’s solar (above) and hydro (below) systems form the backbone to meeting their energy needs

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We ate our lunch in ‘the studio’, a space in the process of being built (almost finished) by a range of people as a shared space for good things to happen – like a bunch of permaculture students coming over to eat lunch and chew the fat.

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We capped off lunch with a short stop at the Mug Wall Cafe – a social permaculture initiative run by Tamas and Linda from their little house once a week on Sundays. This ace little venture is a project which forms part of Tamas’s PhD research, investigating how permaculture principles can also be living art with a key focus of engaging people to build community connections.

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12654210_1094926740538652_2656819697448777050_nChat, chat, chat, chat, chatting

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Our final stop for the day was Lance and Olga’s home. I feel pretty confident in saying that Lance is one of the best earth builders in Australia. His attention to detail, passion and skill is renowned throughout the Tasmania and people who want to know about this stuff.

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They’ve been building their house for the past 14 years. I realise this sounds like a long time, however in this time, Lance has also built a few other house in the valley, worked on numerous demolition and building projects outside Lorinna and chosen to actually rebuild parts of his house as he learned better ways of earth building over the years. He’s very amazing.

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Some particularly interesting and funky things about his building techniques include the fact he ferments his render (often with apples) to make it more resilient and robust – plus it smells sweet, like sourdough bread.

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One of his more recent developments is making mud brick tiles for some of their floors instead of solid earth. He was drawn to do these as some of his earth floors were consistently cracking despite trying a range of approaches – the tiles are a great solution for this.

IMG_5584A sample of a mud brick tile

IMG_5606Making a tile in a mold

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A recent installation of tiles in the kitchen which is almost finished

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The section of the house which they’re already living in and is *almost* finished is peaceful, gorgeous and so welcoming that you feel like you’re at home. In fact this is how Lorinna makes me feel, and while I have no plans to move there, I love being able to visit and bring our permaculture students to show another way of life, even if it isn’t the way for them. There are so many lessons to learn here about how to live lightly on the earth whether you end up in the city or bush. Thanks for having us Lorinna – you guys rock.

 

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A Good Life

We’re just back from New Zealand, visiting my sister (Caitlin) and her family. We left with full hearts and plans to build bridges between our two islands to bring us closer. One of the reasons we love being with these folks is that they live through their hearts to craft a life which is true to them. And when you come across people like that (family or otherwise), you can’t help but be inspired and keep a bit of them with you always.

These guys are rocking the whole concept of living a good life, something that’s highly subjective and can look like many things. To us, it includes living locally and ethically, being creative, engaged with your community and having fun. Here’s how Caitlin and Matt do just that in very fine form.

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These two spunks have built their own home on Matt’s family land on the edge of Coromandel – it’s a dreamy patch of *green* with a flowing creek, abundant veggie patches and orchards. Bananas and bamboo grow in the same neighbourhood as olives, figs, apples and peaches – this places flips my climatic understanding of what plants can grow where.

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The local beach and Riley (below) one of the coolest little pups around.

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Caitlin is an unusually talented artist who nails anything she tries her hand to. Pottery is her main craft and she does it really well, this year she was a finalist in NZ’s Portage Awards – the most prestigious ceramics award in the country . We are very proud. You can see more of her in action here, here and here.

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IMG_7216Caitlin teaching Anton how it’s all done… And juggling Frida

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She stocks the local Driving Creek Railway, a unique mountain railway along with a working pottery and wild life sanctuary, it’s amazing. She’ll also be opening her studio up for this years Coromandel Arts Tour in April – not to be missed if you’re around that way.

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And then there’s Matt. He’s a musician and sound engineer who works with bands and a range of projects through his business Coro Sonic Lab. He also runs the Coro Summer Festival each year in their garden which is true beauty in action. Complete with compost toilets, top notch musicians and somewhere between 200-300 very, very happy people. We just happened to be there for this year’s – it looked like this…

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12552616_10153863423097744_8580263321286474150_nMatt and his bloody awesome family, Pete, Anna and Vicky – we love this family.

One of the striking things about Caitlin and Matt is how they welcome people into their home *all the time*. Whether that’s us, 200 festival goers or their neighbours, there’s a lot of people care going on.

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I once heard a saying; something about how if you have a good home, meaningful work and fulfilling relationships in your life, you’re sorted…. These guys are sorted.

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*All festival photos are from here.

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The Year That Was

As we come to the end of another year and start bracing ourselves for the next one (in a good way) we breath out a little bit and reflect on 2015 to remind ourselves that things got done, fun was had and challenges were worked through. Here are some highlights for you, and us…

Taking ourselves back to March, we got to go to the Australasian Permaculture Convergence in Penguin, NW Tasmania to catch up with old and new friends, do a little talk and stretch our brains a bit. Directly after this we worked with Dan Palmer from Very Edible Gardens to host an Advanced Permaculture Design course which was a bit life changing – you can see a snippet of it here.

IMG_2658-1024x768Students from our Advanced Permaculture Design course

Permaculture maven, Rosemary Morrow worked with us on our Permaculture Design Course *and* a Permaculture Teacher Training course (she’s a dynamo that woman). Meanwhile Tim Barker ran a rocket Powered Shower workshop at the same time – it was a couple of months of legends in and out of our lives – we respect and love all these talented people very much.

1610912_951679158199663_2881760833289315481_nTim Barker and Rosemary Morrow in the house!

In mid Winter, we worked with Milkwood Permaculture in Sydney to teach one of their Permaculture Design Courses. Back home in Tassie we ran a series of other great workshops over some months, including beekeeping, how to grow mushrooms, fermenting food, introduction to permaculture and real skills for growing food.

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12002892_1019531388081106_2352706016512755380_nReal skills for growing food workshop

IMG_5149Our fermentation fest students with their kimchi – so proud of themselves!

A project separate to Good Life that Hannah is deeply involved in is the Hobart City Farm – which is pretty much one of the best places in the world. Two years in the making, we broke ground in early 2015 on just under 1/2 an acre of grass – we’ve just harvested over 500kgs of garlic and have lots of diverse summer crops coming on.

12360149_1064195823614662_4803107927118861502_nLouise, Bridget and James rocking the garlic patch

A complete surprise was when Hannah was awarded the 2015 Tasmanian Young Landcare Leader award which was incredibly humbling and heart warming. We love that permaculture is recognised in this field and have so much respect for the Landcare mob and the work they do.

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Another exciting development that happened this year are our educational tea towels which we’re having so much fun with. We currently have three types (about chooks, bees and fruit trees) and more coming early next year. We’ve set up an online shop so you can get your hands on these beauties anytime.

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In and around everything, we’ve also completed around 30 permaculture designs for a range of truly wonderful people working on creating good lives for themselves. Working with people in this space is so inspiring, helping people’s dreams become reality is really, really cool.

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And back at our little homestead, things are growing and developing with more big dreams being hatched for next year, which we’ll tell you about another day. The bottom line is we love our home, its increasing productivity and beauty – so much goodness and greatness can be created on small pieces of land!

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But perhaps the biggest, most life changing ‘thing’ happened on January 8th, when we added a new member to Team Good Life, Frida Maria.

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She’s growing as fast as the hop vines in our orchard and currently likes to spend her time chasing the ducks, talking to the chooks, climbing rock walls, eating *all* the berries and wrestling, for which we are forever grateful – we love a good wrestle.

And next year? We’re going to do it all again in its own unique way. We’ve got a stack load of courses lined up for y’all and lots of dreams and schemes! We’re going to try and prepare for the challenges we don’t know about yet, savor the wins and be graceful in the stuff that doesn’t work. We’ll continue to get excited about life, try and do everything, over commit and then be kind to ourselves as we find our way through it all. Life is big, hard, beautiful, never the same and we just try and remember we are fortunate, *crazy fortunate* and to embrace the ordinary because, when you think about it, it’s pretty darn wonderful being ordinary.

Thanks for your ongoing greatness towards us and happy festive season, may your loved ones be close enough to hug.

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Advanced Permaculture Design

In collaboration with Very Edible Gardens we’ve just hosted our first Advanced Design Course with Dan Palmer. It was good. Really good.

IMG_2662Anton, Dan, me (Hannah) and baby Frida – who pretty much slept the whole weekend. Bless her socks.

It’s hard to describe what happened over the weekend. Sure, we had a class schedule which we stuck to, covering everything from holistic management, business structure, reading the landscape, implementation of designs and using design software.

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But it was the bits in between, underneath and around the edges which really rocked our boat. Dan designs (and teaches) from the heart. He doesn’t just teach you practical skills to refine your design practice, but he encourages you to ask the big questions of what you want from your life and how design can help this happen. It’s hard to describe, but lets just say we walked way with the drive to become better designers for both our clients AND our lives.

As always, the group of students who came together were diverse, hard working and so so interesting, bringing their own strengths to the course and forming tight networks at rapid rates. Here’s a sneak peak into the weekend…

IMG_2646Dan… Working the room

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IMG_2615Lisa and Wendy reading the landscape

IMG_2622Nick, Kylie and Simon also reading the landscape 

IMG_2627Kirsty telling Terry (L) and Jared (R) how it is

We held this course at the Reseed Centre in Penguin, NW Tasmania. This place is an old school and is now owned by 6 people who re-directed their super funds into this community facility to make a space for sustainability and community to thrive. It’s an incredible space which oozes opportunity and potential, and fruit – so much fruit…

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IMG_2644Camping amongst the orchard

IMG_2658Us (minus Anton who took the photo). A group of committed, excited permaculture designers feeling pretty pumped

Wondering how you can get a bit of this ace action into your life? You can sign up to the next Advanced Permaculture Design course which is being run by Very Edible Garden’s in Victoria here. We promise you’ll find it incredibly useful, thought provoking, heart warming, and fun.

A massive thanks to Dan for coming over to Tasmania and working with us – we love collaborating with hard working, thoughtful, talented people. Here’s to not working in silos and making the effort to share our professional and personal experiences to aid one another in being better – inside and out.

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Interview with Rosemary Morrow

A permaculturist since the 80’s, Rosemary Morrow is based in the Blue Mountains (NSW) and is internationally renowned for her top notch design skills, her ground breaking teaching techniques and her commitment to working with, and for, people who need it most. She tirelessly works across the world including East Timor, Afghanistan, Cambodia, Europe, Solomon Islands, Africa, Vietnam and more. She ooozes integrity, is one of the most down to earth people you’ll come across and is surprisingly short. But don’t’ let this little pocket rocket deceive you, she achieves more in a morning than most and baffles and inspires me with her stamina, enthusiasm and strong character.
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Rosemary is the lead teacher on our upcoming Permaculture Design Course this April 3rd-18th, so we thought we’d introduce you to her so you can get a good sense of this dynamic, talented woman.
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How long have you been a permaculturalist?

Well I started looking in 1978 and then I did my PDC with Robin Francis in 1986 and so from those times.   Perhaps I was a ‘natural’ in a sense because consumption and materialism has always been a bit dubious for me.  It is never, ever boring.  The world simply goes on fascinating and intriguing me, with its possibilities from a design view point.
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What does permaculture mean to you and you life?

I think this was succinctly put by Bill Mollison (co-founder of permaculture) when he said:  Permaculture enables what is morally required and scientifically necessary. So for me, a scientist with moral learnings and wanting to be part of the solution and stop being part of the problem, permaculture through its principles and strategies meant that I didn’t have to do my own research, nor put together my own framework. It fell into place and gave my life foundations and meaning. I love living permaculture because the techniques are not always evident and so there is always room for creative personal response.

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RosemaryMorrow-teaching-e1377107951274How can permaculture help shape a more healthy, sustainable and just world?

Permaculture is about designing strategies for the world that are based on caring for the earth, caring for people and caring for future generations. Within a framework of ethics and principles inspired by nature and by the best that previous cultures had to offer, permaculture offers much toward shaping a more healthy, sustainable and just world.

The way permaculture is taught, and has spread from the grassroots up, has meant that permaculture ideas have spread rapidly around the world, particularly in those places that need it most.
We are presently going through an explosion of permaculture into minds and disciplines more diverse that I think David or Bill ever expected.  For example, my colleague, Lis Bastian, lectures in environmental management for a Bachelors Degree in the international hospitality industry, and permaculture is included in the text for that course. Her students come from over 40 nationalities and will spread these ideas through an industry that is the largest employer in the world.  So you can imagine what will happen to the health of the world when these young students graduate.
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Is permaculture relevant to people who live in the rural AND urban environments?

I wasn’t sure about urban conglomerations until I saw Hong Kong and met with local permaculturists with their myriads to ideas, techniques, and determination.  The whole of the Hong Kong Botanic Gardens and offices are permaculturally designed.  And for rural environments, permaculture will rehabilitate all lands.  I can’t think of anything else that will.  However permaculture does need to improve its content for coastal areas under threat from climate change and rising seas, something I’m working on now.

What type of people would find permaculture useful to integrate into their lives?

It is harder to think whether there are any people who would not find permaculture useful. From premiers and kings, men and women in prisons and in every situation people are always better off adopting permaculture into their lives. Whether its cutting bills for energy, and growing food to running community gardens and local banking – it touches all areas of human lives.

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What projects are you working on at the moment?

The two most exciting ones are:

1) fortnightly Skype sessions with young Afghanis who are peace volunteers and want permaculture for when peace comes.  They are funny and committed and hugely keen to learn.  And yet, we tremble when we read of the escalating numbers of civilians dying in Afghanistan and we worry about when and how a just peace can be brought about.
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2) more challenging  terms of the environment for a small lagoon community in the Solomon Islands which offers a model of how permaculture can respond to vulnerable villages who may not get access to higher land.   It is testing and fascinating. And we cannot go quickly!   The answers may not lie in land solutions, rather in finding ethical incomes for the villagers. You can follow these two projects (and more) through Blue Mountains Permaculture Institute.
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Rosemary-MorrowAnd it is time for me to put nearly 40 years of full-time permaculture projects – failures and successes up on the web for everyone to read. When I think back about outcomes from Vietnam, Cambodia, Albania, East Timor and so on, it is apparent that permaculture has so much to contribute and I’d like people not to have to ‘reinvent the wheel’ by learning from my experiences.
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I also do Skype sessions with Miami, Chile, Argentina and so on.  Plus I have a commitment of some degree to the youth of southern Europe with their huge unemployment and so I’ve worked there for the past two years or so and now I am lucky to be invited to work in Greece in a very economically depressed community. The organiser is a brilliant young Greek-Australian permaculturists who has returned to Greece to be part of their future.

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Rosemary is the lead teacher on our upcoming Permaculture Design Course taking place in southern Tasmania from the 3rd – 18th April. You can understand why we’re excited to have her, it’s going to be a pretty special course with Rosemary at the helm – why not join us! Click here for more information and to register.

**You can follow Rosemary’s work through the Blue Mountains Permaculture Institute, NSW.

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Real Skills for Growing Food

We’ve just wrapped up a very full and incredibly inspiring weekend with some fine folk at our inaugural Real Skills for Growing Food workshop. We’ve been dreaming up this workshop for quite a while, as we wanted to offer a consolidated learning experience to take people through the foundations of how to grow good food in their own homes. We also wanted to make sure it was free of any powerpoint presentations and full of hands on learning through doing – which we definitely succeeded in – so much doing! We’ve come away feeling invigorated and with full hearts…. And dirty hands, of course.

Here’s a glorious photo journey of the weekend, everything from propagation, crop planing, bioinstensive gardening, no-dig gardens, composting, soil health and so much more….

IMG_1562Learning beneath a giant walnut tree -one of the best classrooms ever

IMG_1564Making seed raising mix

IMG_1571Sewing seeds

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IMG_1578Making rooting hormone from fresh tips off a willow tree

IMG_1596Which looks like this when finished – simply dip in your cuttings to give them a significant boost in the growth department

IMG_1587Toby, one of the loveliest dogs ever, graced us with her presence

IMG_1589“Pricking out” seedlings  IMG_1608  Crop planning – aka stretching our brains

IMG_1610Making no-dig gardens

_DSF4995Enjoying each other’s company. Day2: Getting ready for another 6 hours of greatness with Suzi (second from right) in her market garden (below). Photo credit, Rob Walls

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IMG_1615Sheet mulching/composting grassy areas, reclaiming them for garden beds

_DSF4994-2Making hot compost: Photo credit, Rob Walls 

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Here’s to getting your hands dirty, learning heaps of USEFUL skills which will stay with you for the rest of your life and engaging with where our food comes from. We’ll be having another Real Skills for Growing Food workshop next year which you can read about and register for here.

A big thanks to all the wonderful students who came along to this workshop – you are all SO full of life and passion – we loved meeting and working with you. Till next time!

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Making Steep Banks Stable, Productive & Beautiful (Cheaply)

On the weekend just gone, we had a mini working bee with some good mates, i.e 3 hours of power followed by lunch and beers. The mission for the morning was to convert our very bedraggled looking front, steep bank into the startings of a bee paradise garden.  This is our second attempt at this bank – the first one was going really well, until we accidentally set it on fire from a spark from the angle grinder – woops. That was a few months ago and as you can see below it was more than ready for some loving.

IMG_1488The vision for this bank is to be a perennial bee fodder and beneficial insect garden. The idea is that we never have to try and access this bank as it’s actually capping off a significant pile of rubbish which the previous owners buried there when they gutted the house.  Parts of the bank are full of old couches, bed springs, lino and lots of random wire and sharp things. Basically we don’t want to touch it as it’s a world of pain and ugly surprises. So we’re converting it into a bee paradise instead.

As a weed mat we’ve used old bike boxes from the local bike shop which will eventually break down – but not before they’ve helped suppress the grass while more desirable plants establish themselves. We pinned them down with landscaping pins we bought from the local hardware – but if you’re patient, you could also make your own out of high tensile wire.

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Next up we used heat treated pallets (chemical free) to create rows of shelves roughly on contour to ‘lock in’ the cardboard even more and to provide a “pocket” to place some compost which we’ll plant directly into. Again, the pallets are free – salvaged from the side of the road around town. We’re a big fan of free, cheap and DIY, especially when you’re capturing a ‘waste product’ and converting it into a highly functional resource. True, it doesn’t look super flash, but it’s semi-temporary in that it’ll be visible for 2-3 years and then will be swamped by beautiful and productive plants. The plants will effectively replace the pallet shelves and hold the bank together with their roots.

IMG_1521 We then made sure the cardboard received a solid soaking. This helps ‘bed’ it down and prevents it from repelling water, we want it to integrate with the existing soil as quickly as possible to ensure the seeds and plants we pop in thrive. You can also see we’ve started filling the shelves with compost in the photo below. This is where we’ll plant directly into, ensuring that we can get plants established all over the bank, and not just at the very bottom.

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IMG_1529Looking down on the bank you can now see we have 4 mini terraces to plant into, where as before there was none – yay!

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So, what do we plant the bank out with straight away? Tough stuff, that’s what – enter white clover! For the record, clover will get weedy, hence we NEVER put it near our annual beds or in areas where we don’t want to have to be constantly controlling it. The only places we’ve put it on our place is the steep banks which need quick growing, soil improving (it’s a nitrogen fixer) and flowering plants – clover does it all. We also put in stacks of sunflower and calendula seeds. In coming weeks we’ll also plant out the bank with perennial herbs and hardy native shrubs and ground covers.

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IMG_1549One of our almond trees with a happy cluster of fat hen, amaranth and stinging nettle (all desirable ‘weeds’) growing around it

We didn’t bother mulching the bottom section of the bank due to it being so steep, instead have simply covered it with a combination of cardboard and jute mate to suppress the vigorous grass from taking over. At the bottom of the bank you can see our young orchard which we planted this past Winter which is settling in nicely.

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The finished product (above), planted out with white clover, calendula and sunflower seeds. We’ll be planting strategically into the shelves in coming weeks with hardy flowering natives and perennial herbs to create a low shrub and ground creeper layer. It’s going to be beautiful.

And of course, all good working bees end on a high and tasty note – a hearty and colourful lunch topped off with cake and beer to express our enormous gratitude to some of our mates for making it happen. Thank you, thank you, thank you – we look forward to returning the favour!

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Hobart City Farm

For the past two years, myself and a few other fine folk have been busting our guts in our spare time to find (and secure) land to set up a city farm. A city farm is just that – a small farm in the city. It’s not a community or school garden, but a working farm which employs people to grow serious amounts of food. As this process has taken longer than we hoped, Anton and I got on with life, started Good Life Permaculture, bought a house with a 1/4 acre and since then have been setting it up as a demonstration city farm.

But we’ve kept the flame burning as it’s something that just want leave us. And yes, we are setting up our own small urban block and home as a demonstration city farm, but we want to see paddocks of productive landscapes in our cities, paddocks and paddocks. It’s a vision that’s been lodged in my head and heart my whole life and I can’t let it go, not until its real. Cause nothing beats realness.

And so, it is with enormous pleasure, and some relief, that we’ve finally been able to launch the Hobart City Farm project at our local Sustainable Living Festival this weekend. We are a not-for-profit organisation, run like a social enterprise and focused on establishing a vibrant, financially viable and environmentally regenerative small farm that grows a diverse range of food, builds community and provides meaningful employment. We are more than stoked.

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So, who are we exactly? We are 5 people, independent of Good Life Permaculture, and go by the names of James Da Costa, Bridget Stewart, Louise Sales, Sam Beattie and yours truly – Hannah. Anton is playing support on this project as he’s concentrating on not spreading himself so thin, smart bloke that one. And where is the land? It’s in New Town, around 3kms north of Hobart city centre, we’ll release the actually address of the site once we’ve finalised formalities – which are almost there.

Currently the site is a patch of lawn, but not for long as we’re running a multifaceted fundraising campaign to get the whole sh-bang off the ground. Part one is selling a huge amount of tomato seedlings we propagated ourselves at the Sustainable Living Festival this weekend. Pop on down today (Sunday 9th) to get your tom stash and meet some of the team, Good Life Permaculture’s stall is directly next door (we made sure of that) so you can say g’day to us too.

1656290_663245367107772_7241551968203277548_nSam hiding amongst the plethora of tomato plants – excuse the blurry photo

1236160_663243723774603_3622198941132883815_nThe team (minus Lousie Sales) getting excited at the Sustainable Living Festival yesterday

Part two of the fundraising efforts is our crowd funding campaign, complete with a pretty darn impressive list of gifts in exchange for your contributions. We’ve got beehives, permaculture designs, garden blitzes, seeds, parties, t-shirts, compost workshops and even naming writes to a tractor!

Watch the crowd funding film HERE

So why are we so gung-ho about this city farm thing?

Food: We’re passionate about investing in local and regional food systems to provide reliable access to a nutritious and diverse range of food. We see growing food in the heart of the community as an important way of rebuilding connections to where food comes from and the people who grow it. We’re committed to ensuring that the following generations have an understanding of the important role food plays in creating and maintaining resilient communities.

Community: In addition to producing food, the farm will grow community through facilitating educational opportunities in permaculture, food production and composting (to name a few) – both on and off the farm. The Hobart City Farm will encourage community involvement in the practical operations of the farm and help foster a vibrant community in the immediate surroundings and beyond.

Livelihoods: The Hobart City Farm will employ local Tasmanians, creating meaningful livelihoods for individuals. We are also looking and thinking beyond our farm gate and will explore the possibility of partnering with other organisations to provide training in small-hold farming. We hold a deep commitment to helping others gain the skills they need to become farmers.

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We’d like to thank you in advance for helping to make our dreams of having a local, robust, ecologically based, kick-arse food system a reality. Cheers.

  • You can contribute to our crowd funding campaign here
  • Read all about us on our website
  • Like us on facebook to stay in the loop
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Mullumbimby Community Garden

This past week we’ve been visiting family and the sunshine in northern NSW, trying to take a break from work (and almost succeeding) and catching up on some slow time. As I grew up in Brisbane and lived around these traps for a couple of years there are a plethora of fine fine fine folk I know in this region – but this time round we laid low and skipped the socialising bit and went straight for the rest. Which also includes dropping into local community gardens and peering over farm fences to see what’s going on since I last pocked my head in… Which has been a while.

For example, when I last visited the Mullumbimby community garden it consisted of a large paddock and a big herb spiral, it was literally JUST starting and had big dreams. So I was completely disorientated when I popped in this week and found this… I couldn’t even find the original herb spiral which I think has since evolved into a different food scape.

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Having been around community gardens for well over a decade I know what I like in one… and I REALLY love the Mullumbimby community garden for several reasons, including…

It has the traditional private community plots where people can come and do their thing independently, no surprises there – as this is what most community gardens consist of in Australia. There’s also a Food for All section, space for anyone to harvest from – an offering to the community if you like. Again this is a common addition to lots of gardens around Aus which I love seeing.

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And of course, like any good community garden, there are multiple gathering spaces for people to gather in, hold workshops, celebrations and to simply hang out in.

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But there are a few things which set apart this garden from others. For example they have a large seed saving shed dedicated to preserving seeds and selling them on to folk who are looking for endemic, resilient goodness.

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They also have a bug hotel, which is pretty darn cute and an effective method to attract the good guys (insects) into the garden. Providing basic habitat systems like this is a fantastic way to increase diversity into your garden.

IMG_1422And a bug hotel – I mean – how fantastic is that??

There’s also a patch of garden used by the Byron Bay College who use it to help teach their Permaculture courses, taking students through the practicalities of growing food, permaculture style. In the next patch over is a large section allocated to a very funky group called the Future Feeders. Their whole aim is to “establish a network of young farmers empowered by an ecological framework to build healthy soil, food security, ethical land management and resilient communities”. How awesome that they can do this directly from a community garden!

But you know what seriously tickles me pink?? The ultimate of the ultimate? They also make land available for private market gardeners to run their small businesses out of, growing food to sell at local markets. Now THIS is where it’s at. In so many ways this simple gesture is THE most powerful thing I can hope for our community gardens. That they move beyond a weekend hobby and towards fostering and supporting meaningful livelihoods and growing significant amounts of food.

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I also loved visiting this garden as we ran into a very dear old friend of mine – Joey Venables, who I’ve know for almost half my life (yay for being in the right place at the right time). Joey’s one seriously great grower who just happens to have his own market garden within the community garden, he also works in bush regeneration and numerous other earth related projects – bascially, he’s a total legend.

IMG_1431Joey showing us around his garden, here’s to randomly running into good mates from a lifetime ago!

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Over the past 10 years or so, I have watched and participated in community gardens (and other types of urban/rural agriculture) and have been overjoyed at how they’ve embedded themselves into Australian communities everywhere. They’re no longer a ‘fringe’ activity, but are recognised as relevant, effective, fun and beautiful in addressing serious food issues. And I get extra excited when I see gardens taking it deeper into what it means to foster local food systems by allowing ethical private enterprise to develop on their land. This is where seriously good things can happen. So thanks Mullumbimby community gardens and all the fantastic folk who make it happen – you were the cherry on top of our holiday!

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