Posts from the ‘Community’ category

Life in the Face of The Climate Crisis

This past weekend I (Hannah) was invited to give a brief talk at Landcare Tasmania’s conference – an exploratory chat on land and life in the face of the climate crisis. I thought a lot about what to say and even put words on paper (a rare occurrence) – here are those words…

I get a lot of people asking me what do we need to do to respond to the climate crisis? I have two responses. The first is my practical action-based answer which is full of critical initiatives we need to crack on with right now. These include establishing local food systems, stopping mass deforestation, adopting permaculture and regenerative agriculture to manage land holistically. Embracing perennial cropping and not just annual cropping, eating less meat, practicing urban agriculture, advocating for sustainable transport solutions, not flying so much, having less kids, riding a bike, divesting our super out of funds that invest in fossil fuel, resolving inequality, protecting biodiversity, composting everything you can possibly compost, advocating for good governance from our politicians, planting trees, working with First Nation Australians towards healing, supporting renewable energy and not buying so much stuff all the time… These are just a few of the many, many things that we, as a culture, need to crack on with.

My second response is more concise, yet just as critical – and could actually solve all of the issues I just rattled off above. I believe two of the most important things we can do in the face of the climate crisis is build community and foster an enthusiastic imagination.

  1. I’m going to spend my time with you today exploring these two things, starting with building community…

US congress woman, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez says… “Some of best work we can do right now is building and deepening our sense of community. 

….It’s how we create bonds that add meaning to our lives, how we educate one other compassionately, and how we create real, sustainable power that serves the people, the environment, and our future…”

So what does this look like in the face of the climate crisis? It involves a million different approaches to creating and organising community where people are engaged, empowered, and ultimately mobilised into effective, meaningful action… Some examples include…

  • In South Australia, the Red Cross are rolling out a program called Climate Ready Communities to mobilise people in making changes right now to adapt to the climate crisis. This is based on a peer-to-peer approach of residents talking to other residents to build relationships across whole regions to support each other to create resilience for their land and lives with both environmental and social solutions. They’re tackling big things like how to adapt to the increasing threat of fire, drought, social isolation, mental health, food security and more. And they’re doing this over resident’s kitchen tables and in local community halls.
  • A second example is Farmers for Climate Action. This is a national movement of farmers, agricultural leaders and rural Australians working to ensure farmers are a key part of the solution to the climate crisis. Because, did you know that agriculture accounts for 13% of Australia’s emissions – so while they could be seen as part of the problem, they can actually an enormous part of the solution – if they’re supported to be.

Farmers for Climate Action work directly with farmers to recruit other farmers. Together they’re building and strengthening regional communities to be more connected, educated and activated. And importantly, they’re supporting climate solutions being implemented on farms and advocating together to influence the whole sector and the government to implement climate policies that reduce pollutions and benefit rural communities.

  • A third example is a wonderful organisation you might know of called Landcare. For over 30 years people like you have been working across agricultural and environmental initiatives that restore health to the land, water ways and to whole communities. The work that Landcare has already done in responding, and adapting to the climate crisis is extensive – however the opportunities to do more is also extensive and needed more than ever. Landcare is beautifully positioned and networked to make an increasingly deep impact – politically, socially and environmentally. I specifically believe continuing your work with communities in particular is a key way to help uplift one another so we can transform lives and landscapes to be more resilient in the face of the climate crisis.

These few examples have community at the heart of what they do, because while there can be value in a top down approach to initiating change. Bottom up, grass roots movements have proven again and again throughout history that they can be the most effective method to inspire mass change when it’s needed the most. And we need it the most right now.

  1. The second thing I’d like to flesh out with you today is the important task of fostering enthusiastic imaginations…

A fellow called John Dewey who’s a social reformer defines imagination as the ability to look at things as if they could be otherwise.

Because the fact is we need active imaginations to dream up a future that’s different to the one we’re currently on track to creating. We need innovative, creative and different thinking to the “business as usual” thinking that currently dominates our collective brain.

Because…. We can’t create what we can’t dream of. Ancient Hawaiian wisdom (Huna) said “Energy flows where attention goes”. And I can see truth in that.

In recent times, when I have conversations about the climate crisis – some environmental activists I’ve known for many years are now talking the doom and gloom talk – the “we’re all gonna die” talk. While this attitude is a valid response based on facts provided by numerous climate scientists and our current political trajectory, it is not the stuff of great imagination. It is not the attitude that will help us change this trajectory into one of hope and a thriving life for all. I for one, do not want to spend any time putting my attention into thinking we’re all going to die. Saying that, we can’t ignore the facts and pretend there’s nothing concerning happening. But I’d much prefer to use those facts to inform solution-based thinking and acting for a hopeful future and let the energy flow into helping make that happen.  But we can’t do this without dreaming big.

As author, Rob Hopkins says, “…Imagination is central to empathy, to creating better lives, to envisioning and then enacting a positive future… 

He goes on to say that

…When we  reclaim and unleash our collective imagination, we can create often rapid and dramatic change for the better…”

So basically, the future is a vast land of opportunity that our imaginations can help dream into existence.

Some of my hot tips that can help foster enthusiastic imaginations include:

  1. Stop staring at the TV so much and start staring more at trees, soil, the ocean, rocks and the sky. I have found that this has a miraculous effect of providing perspective and reminding us of our delightfully small place in the universe.
  2. Where possible, carve out time in your busy life to daydream. For me this is often at 4am when my house and the world is quiet. With a cup of tea in my hand I watch the sun rise and let the thoughts roll through my brain. Sometimes I latch on to the ones that bring interest and hope and sometimes I just try to empty my brain and let them all wash over me. When my brain is empty, I’ve found that that’s when clarity and good thinking arrives. And,
  3. My third tip for fostering imagination is – Love. Practice loving people. This includes yourself, your immediate family, friends and community. But it also includes the strangers you pass in the street each day and the person who serves you at your corner shop. We are all in this climate crisis together – love will help keep us together as we navigate our way through it.

In summary – our future is one big, fat great unknown. There’s no way of really knowing what will happen tomorrow, next week or in 2040. Despite this, we have enormous potential to create an amazing future if we fully embrace the importance of right now –  which is the only thing we actually have control over. If we live our lives meaningfully and perhaps a bit radically we can ensure that everything we do today, can help create a tomorrow that’s the product of our brilliant, hopeful imaginations and brought to life with our resilient, glorious communities. So that while we’re stepping into a future that is largely unknown, it’s one that we can all look forward to.

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Our Car Share: One Less Car & One More Bike!

After many months of planning and thinking, we sold our 4WD ute, bought a second electric bike and entered a car share arrangement with some mates around the corner who have a small “buzz box” car. It feels really good.
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Jodie and Marty’s buzz box and our two electric bikes

But Why?

Two main reasons – firstly, it’s cheaper to share a car. We did some back-of-the-envelope sums and figured out we’d save around $5000 each year. Secondly, in the very big face that is the current climate crisis, we’re constantly looking at how we can prevent carbon emissions from occurring in our own lives to contribute to the solution and not the pollution. Check out this graph drawn up by Brenna Quinlan that shows the power of personal action in the face of climate change.
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Not having a car is the second most impactful thing we can do in our society – right after considering how you approach family planning. Australia’s Climate Council has this to say on the matter…
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“Transport – cars, trucks, public transport, domestic flights and shipping – is Australia’s second largest source of greenhouse gas pollution. The sector emitted 102 million tonnes carbon dioxide (MtCO2) in 2018, representing 18% of Australia’s annual greenhouse gas pollution…
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The major source of the problem is cars, responsible for roughly half of Australia’s greenhouse gas pollution from transport. In fact, Australian cars emit roughly the same per year as Queensland’s entire coal and gas fired electricity supply (Climate Council).”
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Yeah, so cars are a big deal, yet most folks consider them to be an extension of our bodies and lives. But do they have to be for everyone? In an ideal world, we’d have amazing public transport systems *everywhere*, affordable electric cars and bike infrastructure and incentives that get urban folk on their bikes and out of their cars. But that’s not an option for a large portion of us.
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For example, we personally can’t afford an electric car (however we do hope to access one in the future), our public transport system is average at the best of times and our bike infrastructure is limited. It’s easier to drive because that’s how our city and whole island infrastructure has been designed and developed.

How does the car share work?

A car share is a practical solution to our current lives where we still need a car for work and sometimes play. Tasmania currently doesn’t have a formal car share enterprise set up (as other parts of Australia do), so we initiated our own with some mates (thanks Jodie and Marty) around the corner who have a small, efficient car they were willing to share. We’ve done a range of things to formalise the agreement and make record keeping easy, these include:
  • Having a contract that outlines everything super clearly. There’s nothing wishy-washy about what we’re doing, everything’s written down which ensures we’re all on the same page.
  • Establishing an online calendar so we can book the car in when we need it.
  • We have a shared Google Docs form where we all enter how many kms we did, if you spent on money (fuel, repairs etc) and whether we did city or highway driving.
  • We have insurance – this will cover any accidents (touch wood) and remove any big financial risk associated with them.
  • Agree to meet every quarter to review the agreement and resolve any costs if needed.
  • If we both need it at the same time, the household who needs it for the least amount of time will rent a car instead.

What’s challenging about it?

There are some challenges to this new way of transport for us, actually there’s only one. We need to be more organised with our time. But really, being more organised is a pretty ace life skill, so fostering that is actually a positive.

Should everyone do a car share?

No. We acknowledge that this isn’t an option for everyone. It happens to be for us because we live in Hobart city, this makes it easy for us to walk and ride for 80% of our trips. Not everyone can access housing in a central city or town, or make their lives and/or work functional without the use of a car everyday.
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I’m completely uninterested in sounding like a white, privileged bozo and flippantly saying that everyone should do this cause we can. What I will say is that we can all do things to transition to a meaningful life that can help prevent the climate crisis from getting worse. What that thing/s is will depend on your context. I simply invite you to explore your world and find that thing/s and make it happen :-).
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For us, we’re on a one-way track to constantly working on untangling ourselves from being so dependent on fossil fuels and capitalism. We often ask ourselves the question “do we really need this thing in our lives, or is there another way?” Often, there is another way and we like this other way. It’s full of better health, community connections and resilience.
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Anton and Frida rugged up and on their way to Kindy
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Mab Ueang Agri-Nature Centre in Thailand

The Mab Ueang Agri-Nature Centre is an educational, diverse farm located one hour out of Bangkok, Thailand. At 30 years old, this mature farm is predominantly a giant food forest with small rice paddies and strategic water systems integrated. It’s amazing.

It’s based on the late King Bhumibol’s many decades of research and advocacy in agriculture and culture to create the New Theory Sufficiency Economy. King Bhumibol initiated this theory to help Thai farmers who suffer from the impacts of economic crisis, natural disasters and other unproductive natural conditions.

The New Theory suggests that farmers apply moderation, due consideration and self-immunity to their practice of farming to shield them from the risks and impacts of globalisation and other uncontrollable factors in their farming.

“…I ask all of you to aim for moderation and peace, and work to achieve this goal. We do not have to be extremely prosperous…If we can maintain this moderation, then we can be excellent…” His Majesty the King’s Statement given on 4 December 1974

After visiting quite a few farms throughout Thailand, THIS one was by far the most sophisticated, resilient, clever and successful that’s in line with what we look to create with permaculture design. Here’s a brief tour of some of the key elements…

The water systems

Throughout the food forest are many strategic channels guiding water from pond to pond. While I was there it was the end of the dry season so these channels were mostly dry (as they should be). I can imagine them in the wet season all full and flowing beautifully.

This small bamboo structure above is designed to slow and sink water into the soil as it moves through the system.

These depressions above are designed to grow small rice crops in once. Out of shot uphill is a “header tank” where water can be released into these areas (or other gardens) to irrigate as needed.

And everywhere there are demonstrations on how to use slope, contours and terracing to manage water and vegetation as can be seen below.

The structures

Throughout the food forest are small homes for staff and volunteers. They’re cleverly integrated into the landscape, providing comfortable places to live. In the extreme heat of this area (it was 42 degrees when I was there), inside this forest was significantly cooler.

Impressively there’s an example of how, even if you don’t have land, you can live and grow on water. The example below shows how you can build a floating house and garden on a fresh water pond where abundant fish are also available as food.

In the 30 seconds it took me to take this photo, 5 fish jumped out of the water. It’s so abundant. 

A solar panel demonstrates fo solar energy can be harvested for lighting.

Shadecloth with a surprisingly small amount of soil are held in bamboo frames to grow vegetables, rice and fruit trees. Fish eat the bugs and worms that thrive in this system, meaning no other food needs to be provided to the fish.

Energy

As well as food, this farm demonstrates how you can make your own energy for cooking. Specifically with bio-digesters which use buffalo poo and water in an anaerobic environment to create methane gases. This gas is harvested and piped to the nearby kitchen for cooking. Low-tech and highly effective.

The kitchen with the bio-digester in the background.

Bamboo

Bamboo is grown extensively as a building material for homes and garden structures. The image below shows how bamboo can be used to help establish Vetiver grass (Vetiveria zizanoides) in steep banks to stop erosion.

And for building structures and garden edging as seen below…

Bamboo used as garden edging. 

Rice

Amongst the food forest are rice paddies. Rather than large rice paddies, they have more of them but at smaller dimensions amongst the trees with strategic water channels to let water in and out as needed. This is more inline with “dry land” rice production – using less water to fit in erratic rainfall.

Seeds

Seeds are harvested and stored to preserve diversity and to share with other Thai farmers. While seemingly modest, saving seed has always been a key part to a country’s cultural independence. Having control over seed varieties and distribution means you have control over the food system.

While permaculture was developed by two white men in Australia (Bill Mollison and David Holmgren), I believe it stands on the very broad shoulders of traditional cultures everywhere. There are many design and ethical similarities between the New Theory and permaculture. Not for the first time, I’m struck at how traditional cultures *all around the world* have already worked out how to live well intuitively and through observational science.

If you’re working in a foreign country in permaculture, the best thing you can do is look to the local people with healthy landscapes and communities – they’ll have all the strategies and techniques appropriate for that environmental and cultural context.

This place will forever stay with me as an incredible example of good design in action. I’ve only scratched the surface of what’s happening there, so encourage anyone in that part of the world to have a visit…

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The Future Of Tasmania

Recently, I was invited to write an article for Island magazine around the theme ‘The Future of Tasmania’ and what I would like it to look like… Here’s what I wrote…

As a gardener, permaculture educator and landscape designer, when I think about the future of Tasmania, this little island at the bottom of the world with clean air, water, decent soils and rainfall – I think about agriculture and our relationship to this spectacular landscape.

Once upon a time the First Nations people of Australia managed this country as a whole for 10s of thousands of years. Like mainland Australia, the Palawa people used fire-stick farming to hunt animals, manage soil health and regenerate the land. Without a doubt they were some of the most sophisticated and successful agriculturalists ever.

Right now agriculture in Tasmania is predominantly based on the same model most of the world is following – big is better, monoculture focused and export orientated. However around the edges of this is an industry of small growers and producers in both urban and rural contexts offering up some of the best food and produce in the world. As an unwritten rule, they’re organic (certified or not), sell a significant portion of their produce within Tasmania and have a strong connection to their community.

Another general rule is that, with a few exceptions, they’re financially just scrapping by as they compete with big business. While small agriculture might ultimately be better for our environment and communities, it doesn’t always stand up to the current reality where lack of government support and debt can cripple enterprises. Something needs to change.

Lets jump ahead 100 years where agriculture is radically changed. There’s an over-riding manifesto of how people do agriculture and it goes something like this…

The whole island is organic due to the necessity of needing to look after natural resources.

Central to education is how we relate to our landscape. Farmers or not, we all know the basics, that without a healthy earth we’re stuffed. No one’s trying to commodify or ravage it – it’s simply not an option.

A significant portion of all cultivated land is under perennial food crops providing high yields and health for our soils and ground water. Annual crops are still grown, but in appropriate sized patches amongst a perennial landscape.

For meat, we no longer only farm livestock such as cows, sheep and pigs, but have also fully embraced sustainably harvesting wild wallabies, possums and the like for protein and for population control. Livestock are grazed beneath large nut orchards and no landscape is put under monoculture crops as everyone knows this only provides short-term gain, which just isn’t good enough any more.

Interstate trade and exporting of produce still happens, but only with a strong filter of sound ethics and only once Island folk are catered for. No one eats crap, processed food as it was phased out rapidly in the 2030s once the health effects were too bad to ignore.

Land ownership is more fluid with people being able to access land without having to go into debt. And while there might still be fences to contain livestock, we manage landscapes as a whole, just like the Palawa people once did.

And at the end of the day in this future of ours, when you look across this spectacular landscape, your heart will beat loud knowing that you’re part of it.

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The Home Composting Project

Over the past year we’ve been working with the City of Hobart to deliver The Home Composting Project. This was a multi-layered, creative education campaign that supported people to compost their food waste at home instead of sending it to landfill where it releases harmful methane gases into the atmosphere.

There were three layers to this project:

  • The first was focused on “passive education” that happened through installing large-scale public artwork in the city educating people how to compost.
  • The second layer was all about “active education” which took place through hosting two free home-composting workshops in Hobart.
  • The third layer was advising the City of Hobart in updating their website to include information on how to compost food waste at home.

But why?

Current figures indicate that up to 47% of Hobart kerbside bins are pure food waste[1] – this is both a big environmental and economic problem and a big opportunity. Environmentally, the main problem is that once food waste is buried in the ground it becomes anaerobic, eventually releasing harmful methane gases into the atmosphere.

“Methane is a potent greenhouse gas 28 to 36 times more effective than CO2 at trapping heat in the atmosphere over a 100-year period.”

Hello climate change and a plethora of social, environmental and economic challenges. We think it’s best to avoid this at all costs, hence turning the problem (food waste) into the solution (healthy compost to return to the soil).

To do this we worked with a group of households to (a) teach them how to compost, and (b) record how much they composted over one month to determine its effectiveness in keeping food waste out of landfill. They each received identical “compost kits” that made accurate data collection possible.

The outcomes for this brief, but effective project Include:

While the outcomes you can see above might appear modest, the power of this model is that it’s easy and affordable TO SCALE UP to be a highly effective approach to help keep food waste out of landfill.

Cost projections show that by investing in an educational program that’s free for the public to access, you could potentially divert hundreds (and eventually thousands) of tonnes of food waste from landfill per year and save tens (and eventually hundreds) of thousands of dollars by reducing processing fees.

A second layer to the project

Involved collaborating with local artist, Rachel Tribout, to create three large compost billboards that were displayed in central Hobart for 3 months. They were educational, beautiful and big – with the largest one measuring 7.8m x 2.3m.

A very happy me with the smallest of the 3 billboards

The third & final layer to this project

Was focused on working with the City of Hobart to update their website to include some educational information, supporting people to compost at home. This involved making easy-to-download flyers from the billboards and making them permanently available to the public as you can see below.

The City of Hobart are now exploring the feasibility of having a kerbside collection service specifically for food waste to further decrease the percentage of it ending up in landfill.   However as outlined in their Waste Management Strategy, this wouldn’t mean support for home composting disappears – rather it would be one of a range of approaches. We’re fans of not putting all your eggs in one basket so support this approach to turning this current pollution into a soil-loving solution.

  • Did you know: The City of Hobart have a unique and quality composting facility where they currently compost green waste that the public give them. Once composted this is then sold back to the community and while not certified organic (the inputs are too variable), it’s currently the best quality compost we’re aware of commercially available.
  • Thanks to the City of Hobart for funding this project – we loved it.

Some references & resources

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The RESEED Centre: A Sustainability Hub in NW Tasmania

Hello World,

I’ve been wanting tell you about The Reseed Centre for years now, and now they’ve got all their ducks lined up, I can. The Reseed Centre is a little known venture tucked away in the northwest of Tasmania. It’s now emerging as a positive and vibrant centre for sustainable living and Permaculture design. In this blog they share their story and invite you to get involved….

“Our adventure started in 2012, when six of us invested in the two-acre property that was the old Penguin Infant Primary School.

The value and potential was obvious to us. It is a joy to walk the grounds among dozens of fruiting trees and vines. The microclimate suits a huge diversity from apples to avocados. The old school buildings have been retrofitted to include a variety of residential, meeting and office spaces. Incredibly there were (and continue to be) local property developers who see little more than “prime real estate” to be bulldozed, paved over with units and sold for a large profit.

In reality none of us individually ever dreamed of being able to purchase such an
amazing property, a situation common within Permaculture circles. So it was necessary to explore different financial models. We settled for a unit trust, which enabled investment of self managed superannuation funds and direct cash investment.

We called it the RESEED Centre, with a focus on Renewable Energy, Sustainability Education and Enterprise Development. We have installed 10 kilowatts of solar power and incorporate education in most of our activities. We provide affordable spaces and promotion for likeminded businesses to get started.

We have been working to develop the RESEED Centre as a hub for positive change, encouraging people to be healthy, live sustainably, reconnect with each other and help build a resilient community. The Centre and its activities offer a positive response to the challenges of our time: economic instability, a changing climate, energy insecurity, loss of community cohesion.

Permaculture design has emerged as a central theme and focus of activity at the RESEED Centre. Good Life Permaculture has led two amazing residential Permaculture Design Courses here. The students appreciated the great teaching, as well as being 500 metres from the beach, town, cafes and public transport.

Hannah and Anton worked with us to create a beautiful and inspiring design for the centre, providing valuable guidance to implement and develop a unique Permaculture learning site. Then came a key lesson and essential principle of Permaculture design: small and slow solutions. Our enthusiasm was tempered by some slow progress through the council planning approvals process.

Draft concept design above and the final design below. From our experience we believe the transformative potential of Permaculture design will only be realised when we delve more deeply into areas of economic models, governance, appropriate technology and forge strong connections with others in the process.

We have learned valuable lessons in working to achieve financial viability, while remaining true to our vision.

We’re now seeking more investors or others keen to contribute in practical ways to continue the good work that we have begun.

Due to unforseen family circumstances, two of our original investors need to withdraw their investment. On one hand this need presents us with a significant challenge, though positively it opens up an unprecedented opportunity for others looking for an truly ethical investment

Can you imagine being part of the RESEED team?

Are you in a position to provide funds or energy to continue this amazing venture?

If you answered “yes” or even just “maybe” to those questions, then get in touch and have a conversation with Nick, Michelle or Robin below.

Those wishing to keep in touch with RESEED Centre activities can subscribe to the newsletter (email Michelle michelle.towle@iinet.net.au) or follow on Facebook.” 

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Beauty In The Weekend

While the concept of the weekend is very man-made and imperfect in many ways, we’re enjoying having some.

Last weekend we overcame the howling wind and rain and went to our mate’s birthday party in a paddock and little house. Despite the chill, it was heartwarming.  Taking time is always heartwarming and when done with loved ones, it’s even better. People care is never time wasted.

Sam, his very large bonfire and some casual archery happening over to the left. A typical Tassie gathering. 

Our very ace friend, Grace ran a spoon making workshop on the porch of her little paddock shack.

Image by Grace

We cut the young, weedy poplar trees down, split them with an axe and Grace shared her super sharp whittling tools with us which make whittling incredibly dreamy and easy.

Image by Grace

I made a funny little “paddle” spoon (the white one below) to add to our existing collection of hand made spoons and butter knife at home.

Not as snazzy as Grace’s spoon collection, but still has the beauty that can only come with hand made.

Image by Grace

We really enjoy our talented, creative friends. Whether it’s spoon carving, lighting *really* large bonfires or building their own little paddock shack (as Grace has below) – they’re a talented bunch. Hanging out with them reminds me of the important things in life – good connections and good times.

You can follow Grace and her spoon adventures over at Heartspoons. 

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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

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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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