Posts tagged ‘permaculture tasmania’

The Modern Market Gardener

One of our best mates, Jonathan Cooper recently started working with Fat Pig Farm to develop and manage their market garden – it’s a great job with great people – he’s stoked. But it got me thinking about market gardening and how while it hasn’t changed, we have. Mainstream culture seems to be seeing it differently and actually valuing it like it deserves.

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Farmers have always been critical to a healthy and viable society, but not always celebrated. In many countries they were traditionally called peasants (and still are), a term generally used in a negative way referring to poor or landless farmers and agricultural workers. The unsaid feeling that went with this term implied that peasants were uneducated, ignorant, and of a lower class. But it feels like this is changing as the world wakes up and realises that without happy, healthy farmers, and some argue small-scale farmers in particular – our food system will collapse.

A key game changer was, and continues to be, the establishment of La Via Campesina.

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“La Via Campesina is the international movement which brings together millions of peasants, small and medium-size farmers, landless people, women farmers, indigenous people, migrants and agricultural workers from around the world. It defends small-scale sustainable agriculture as a way to promote social justice and dignity. It strongly opposes corporate driven agriculture and transnational companies that are destroying people and nature.”

Established in 1993, it’s been changing the way people think and act towards farmers ever since.

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“La Via Campesina comprises about 164 local and national organizations in 73 countries from Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas. Altogether, it represents about 200 million farmers. It is an autonomous, pluralist and multicultural movement, independent from any political, economic or other type of affiliation.”

When I was 18 (2001) I was heavily involved in all things permaculture, urban agriculture, community development and sustainability (still am). And while I lived and worked on small farms here and there it was soooo different to now. Back then I would struggle to name a handful of young people market gardening/farming. Now? Now they are everywhere. There seem to be more supported opportunities for young folks to farm. People are hiring skilled growers to farm on their private land, people without cash are leasing land to run small market gardening businesses on. Others like myself are organising with people to start up initiatives like the Hobart City Farm. And people are *loving* it, and us. People don’t look at me sideways when I tell what I do for a living/life anymore, for which I’m very grateful.

So back to Jonathan (or Jono as we know him)…..

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Jono is one of the many, much loved modern market gardeners we have in Tassie. Matthew and Sadie, of Fat Pig Farm and The Gourmet Farmer fame, have hired Jono to ramp up and extend their market garden which will eventually feed into their onsite restaurant and family home. It’s a beautiful farm, full of potential which is quickly becoming reality by these two go-getters.

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IMG_4524A bed of rhubarb mulched with globe artichoke leaves

Included in the space is a mixed market garden with both annuals and perennials, a to soon to be olive grove, bees, mixed orchard, chickens a giant hot house for extending the seasons and a big gathering space to allow people to come, learn and enjoy the space. And of course there are pigs on the sidelines, watching on. I have no doubt that this farm will develop into a gorgeous home and a unique experience for people coming through to have an insight into farm life, but also good life.

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Fresh mounds waiting for the young olive trees to be planted within the coming weeks.

I’m forever grateful for good people and particularly *love* it when they work together as this is where the magic happens. And you can be sure there’s some magic going down on Fat Pig Farm – be sure to watch this space…

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Compost Tea

Compost tea is a brown liquid which has been actively aerated, it’s produced “by extracting bacteria, fungi, protozoa and nematodes (all members of the soil foodweb) from compost.” However, compared to compost, it’s an incredibly efficient method of injecting valuable nutrients into your soil (and plant foliage) and creating and/or maintaining the soil foodweb in your soil across small or large areas of land.  Dr Elaine Ingham, founder of the Soil Foodweb Institute, is responsible for flying its flag in a major way, traveling the world educating people and working with farmers to integrate it into their land management systems.

Now, I’m no compost tea expert. Sure – I’ve completed a short course with Dr Elaine Ingham and am in love with all things compost, however this stuff’s deep and despite years of experimenting, I still consider myself a novice. What’s that saying, the more you learn – the less you know. Anyway, here’s an overview of compost tea, some recipes and insights from various folks around the globe…

What’s the difference between compost tea & plant/manure tea?

Pant/manure tea is the age-old practice of soaking manures or a range of plants in a vessel of water where they leach their nutrients into the water.  This can include compost, beneficial plants (comfrey, borage, dandelion to name a few), fish guts and animal manures. It’s then left to ‘stew’ for up to one month in which time it becomes incredibly stinky, indicating that it’s gone anaerobic. I remember working on a farm and having to spread very mature plant tea around the market garden… No matter how many swims I had in the dam I stank for days.

In contrast, compost tea is an aerated brew which doesn’t smell bad (at all) and is usually ready between 24-48 hours depending on the weather and ingredients. The liquid is aerated through an air blower (or fish pump), or if you have no power by stirring it vigorously regularly. By getting air into the liquid, the right environment is created for diverse soil foodweb to form.

So while both provide nutrients, the compost tea also provides *life* to the soil – and that’s what we’re after.

What’s the soil food web?

It’s a complex collection of a trillion or so life forms including bacteria, protazoa, fungi, nematodes, cilliates etc. It describes the relationships between them and how they form a whole system which cycles nutrients through the layers of the soil, making them available to plants and other life forms, above and below the ground. You can read more about it here.

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When you think about the type of compost tea you’d like to make, think about what crop you’re trying to grow, this will determine the ingredients you need to put into your brew. For example all annual vegetables naturally thrive in a bacteria rich environment, whereas orchards and other tree crops naturally evolve when fungi dominates. If you check out the basic ecological succession chart below you can see the stages of succession and the areas where bacteria and fungi naturally flourish.

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There are a hell-of-lot more complexities and overlaps going on than this chart shows, but it gives you a general sense. When making compost tea, you can tailor the tea to suit the crop you’re growing. So if you’re growing annual vegetables, make a compost tea with more bacteria and if your growing tree crops, favour the fungi. Ingredients which foster bacteria are nitrogen materials including manures and plant foliage, to attract fungi include carbon ingredients like wood chips. However, a good compost will have a healthy balance of bacteria and fungi suited for any crop. And fungi is the ultimate soil life form for any crop – in our own garden we actually put a significant amount of carbon into our annual crops by using ramial wood chips to attract fungi… I told you it was complex.

To simplify it, here are two recipes and some great resources for you to go through.

Elaine Ingham has a basic recipe on her website which is centred around having *really* good compost, and a microscope. If you’re after something a bit more approachable, Hobart market gardener, Suzi Lam, has shared her recipe with us below.

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Suzi brews her  compost tea in a 20 litre bucket for up to 48 hours and dilutes it to (approx. 10:1) to water her 1/4 acre market garden. It’s important to note that you need dechlorinated water, if you’re on town water, simply leave a bucket of water out for 24 hours for the chlorine to evaporate before you make your brew.

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A good looking brew in process, those bubbles are a good indicator that things are going well, the other main indicator is the smell – it should smell sweet and earth.

An important tip is to clean all the materials thoroughly after you’ve finished so there’s no ‘scum’ left on the bucket for air blower, otherwise there’s risk of contamination for the next brew. Everything needs to be clean and fresh, you can use hot water and elbow grease to clean.

Can you put too much compost tea on your garden?

No, however there’s no need to do it every week, make and apply compost tea strategically to help get a crop started or just before fruiting.

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Is compost tea the answer to all soil problems?

Some people say yes, but we think no. Specifically, it does not resolve mineral imbalances, it may help – but as far we understand things, it cannot fix it. We recommend approaching soil remediation by first doing a soil test to determine the mineral/nutrient content and then using a range of methods which can include compost, compost tea and possibly (depending on scale and context) applying some minerals to help bring everything back into balance. A good book to read about using minerals and growing nutrient dense food is The Intelligent Gardener by Steve Solomon.

Other good resources

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Learning The Art Of Growing

Good things happen when people come together around food, so our ‘Real Skills for Growing Food’ workshop on the weekend was particularly great, as people got to learn how to grow their own food (and eventually eat it of course).

We love these weekends, it’s a time where we can bring together some of Tasmania’s most talented growers to share their skills, passion and deep knowledge on all things productive and edible. Here’s a whirlwind tour of what went down.

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We started the weekend in Suzi Lam’s urban market garden. This woman, I tells ya – she’s more than good, knows soils inside out and her passion for gardening and life in general is contagious.

Suzi took the students through the importance of soil health and approaches to achieve this, including making complete organic fertiliser, using ramial woodchips and making hot compost.

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image2Building a compost pile with Suzi

We then moved the workshop to the Hobart City Farm which is a project very close to our hearts and hands. Here we explored propagation and seed saving with James Da Costa who’s one of the co-founders of the City Farm.

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IMG_4141Sand, coco peat and compost, three key ingredients for a propagation mix.

IMGP0079Broad beans, one of the easiest seeds to save and grow.

Day two of the workshop saw local grower, Jonathon Cooper take folks through an overview in market gardening.

IMG_4147Jono showing folks a broadfork – a popular tool for any market gardener

He took everyone through the fundamentals including must have tools, the importance of good design, managing weeds, crop planning and extending your season – which can be critical in our cool temperate climate.

IMG_4173Stacey and Megan weeding the garlic patch with stirrup hoes, with the very wonderful Bridget supervising.

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To finish off the weekend, Anton tool the class through a range of techniques for growing food including the biointensive method, companion planting, no-dig gardening, and planting fruit trees.

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IMGP0074   IMGP0089Happy students!

Students had a go at laying out beds for crops using the biointensive method with close spacings to make the most out of the area available.

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IMG_4195Planting out and watering in the no-dig garden

IMGP0020 2Megan working on the no-dig garden bed

Thanks so much to all the wonderful people who came along, we wish you a life time of growing, inside and out…

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Thanks also to our special teaching team – (from left to right) Jonathon Cooper, James Da Costa, Suzi Lam and Anton Vikstrom. If you ever have the opportunity to work with, or learn from, any of these people – grab it, they’re gold.

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Our next ‘Real Skills for Growing Food’ workshop will be in 2016, join our monthly newsletter to make sure you hear about it.

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Mashua: AKA Perennial Nasturtium

Nasturtiums are my favourite plant ever – one of my earliest memories is of drinking rain drops out of their leaves (cause that’s how the fairies did it) and they’ve really stuck with me ever since. As I grew older I loved the fact the you can eat the leaves, flowers and make ‘poor man capers’ out of the seed pods, plus they’re a great living mulch in the garden, attract beneficial insects and easy on the eye.

Over the years I’ve planted them in pretty much every house I’ve lived in and these days I have a giant mural of them on our bathroom wall. I even took it to the next level and requested that Anton (my now husband) sew my wedding dress so it depicted a nasturtium patch… And he did – it’s amazing, as is he. So when I found out that there’s a perennial nasturtium (called mashua) only less than a year ago – well, I got excited.

Mashua-PhotosImage from here

It’s official name is Mashua (Tropaeolum tuberosum) and it was traditionally grown in South America as a root crop. That’s right people, you can eat the leaves, flower AND TUBERS. I know, amazing.

While it is a perennial, it’s sensitive to frost and cold so will die back in winter and grow fresh plants from new tubers in spring. So late winter is the time to pull it up, subdivide all those tubers for eating and/or growing.

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It grows rampantly as a climber or ground cover and the flowers and leaves are similar to the common nasturtium plant, but have their own twist.

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IMG_3939The leaves die back as the cold sets in with winter

As this was the first time we grew the plant, we just watched to see what would happen. They spread out under our fruit trees, had a half hearted go at flowering (it was a bit cold) and then slowly started to shut down and go ‘green/brown’ as winter set in.

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In recent weeks we started weeding the orchard and noticed a plethora of tubers at the base of each plant. Up until then, we didn’t realise that (a) they had such prolific tuber production and, (b) you could eat them. It was a happy day of discoveries that one. So far we’ve only tried eating them roasted (just like potatoes), sadly we weren’t in love with their taste, but will keep trying different recipes until we are.

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And they’re beautiful, don’t you think? We’ve currently got a big bowl of them in our house and each friend who comes through leaves with at least one in their pocket to have a go in their own gardens. Plus we’ve sent some over to the Hobart City Farm to grow in their perennial beds. Gotta spread the love round.

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We’re feeling a bit ‘mashua rich’ at the moment – all this loot came  from one plant.

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From what we can gather, mashua generally grows in a temperate climate and, like seed potatoes you can cut each one into smaller bits, with each one becoming its own plant. If you do this, just make sure each piece has at least two eyes (the dimply depressions) on it and that you harden them off so the cut can dry out and form a callus.

Where can you get your own mashua plant?

If you’re lucky enough to be in Tasmania, visit Provenance Growers at the Hobart Farm Gate Market and they’ll sort you out. If you’re in the US, I found this fantastic mob called Cultivariable who stock it, plus a million other great, lesser known food plants.

Good articles & blogs

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Fat Carrot Farm

A few months ago, we were driving to a new design client’s property south of Hobart and went passed a really spunky looking farm, complete with a cranking market garden, strawbale/timber house, ducks and dams. We slowed down to 10kms an hour to give it a good eyeball and were like… We so gotta meet those people. Anyway, it turns out we knew them distantly (that’s Tassie for you). Meet Stan and Briony from Fat Carrot Farm. They’re hardworking, cruisy, highly intelligent folk who have amazing attention to detail, skills to burn, good taste in music and a really good coffee machine. Our kind of people.

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These guys moved here around 15 years ago, built a house, had two kids, started a market garden, built a boat while holding down their highly skilled town jobs. They’re so cool, they were growing kale 15 years ago… But no one knew what it was so it wasn’t appreciated. You’ll be happy to know they’re growing it again and people love it.

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When I tracked them down, Stan stressed that it wasn’t a ‘permaculture’ farm, rather a collection of approaches was used to make this property work for them. However he also said he’s read most of the key permaculture books back to front and it shows. Things are in the right place, nutrients are cycled and stuff is cranking. In fact it’s more permaculture than some properties I’ve seen that call themselves permaculture…

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Their market garden is overflowing with crops which they supply to local community group – Channel Living and sell from their farm shop throughout the week.  Being winter, a good portion of the garden is under mixed green manure crops, giving the soil some love so it can crank in spring/summer time.

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IMG_3620Stan checking on his chilli plants being kept warm with a mini hot house – simple and so so effective

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Some of the things that we really loved included their array of fencing to keep out the local wildlife – like this hardcore corrugated iron fence…

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And this somewhat elegant floppy fence which works incredibly well…

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And their house. Oh their house – we want one! It’s picture perfect, super energy efficient, uses local materials and is incredibly comfortable and beautiful. They built it on their weekends over three years, with two young kids – amazing.

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And in its own special way the house is integrated into the garden.  To catch some of the troublesome black birds they set a trap of crab apples and a cage propped up on a stake. See that blue bailing twine? One end is tied to the stake and the other end is tied to their bed, meaning in the morning that can wake up check to see if any black birds are feasting on the crab apples and simply pull the bailing twine which removes the stake propping up the cage. Genius…. And very permaculture’esk.

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Their farm shop is flanked with vegies, seed saving, a much loved pizza oven and cute signs courtesy of a previous wwoofer.

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Finally, they have beer coasters as their business cards. We love them for that.

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IMG_3634Our tired Frida destroying some home grown brocolli

When you’re in the early days of your ‘journey’ in setting up a home like we are, it’s bloody heartening and refreshing to meet people who have already done the hard yards in setting up a cranking property. We came home inspired and with the reminder that we’ll get there, everything’s going to work out and that yes, it takes years. Healthy reminders indeed.

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Skill Swap: Cake for Permaculture

We want more people to do and live permaculture – that’s why we do what we do. However we recognise that some folks don’t have extra cash to get skilled up on workshops. So we’re making one space available on our Introduction to Permaculture (running on June 13-14 in Hobart) course to help folks get started on living the good life.

However we want to do a skill swap, cake for permaculture. We usually make cakes for student’s morning and afternoon tea breaks, but we thought we could make an exchange with someone who otherwise would not be able to attend. The deal is you make four cakes (two for each day) and we give you a spot on our Introduction to Permaculture course.

To apply, simply email us at hello@goodlifepermaculture.com.au and let us know two things:

1) Why you’re the best person for this spot, and

2) What type of cakes you’ll make – they don’t have to be super fancy by the way, just simple and wholesome treats.

To get you inspired, here are some recent cakes from our courses (and the internet)…

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Ok, so those last two are probably taking things too far, but aren’t they beautiful! Please share far and wide so it reaches the person it needs to, and so we get cakes :-).

** You can see all information for this course here.

 

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Reflections on our latest PDC with Rosemary Morrow

We’re just had a mammoth two weeks with Rosemary (Rowe) Morrow teaching our latest Permaculture Design Course. Crikey, she’s a pocket rocket, a true power house packed full of integrity and more experience and insight that you can shake a stick at! Here’s a little glimpse into what went down…

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Rowe, eating yet another apple (it’s apple season right now and we’re happily drowning in them), whilst facilitating group work.

11096696_939524819415097_5710765878958701113_nMorning time looked something like this each day – a gathering to get our body and minds moving and ready for full days.

IMG_3016Tanya, working the site analysis pose

Like all of our PDCs, we focus on how to design (as opposed to how to build gardens etc). We dive deeply into the permaculture design framework and how to read landscapes effectively and accurately. Here’s Tanya, doing her thing, analysing a site for her group design project, which went on to develop like this….

IMG_3053A sector analysis – part of the main design project for the course.

This…

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Mapping out all the microclimates and space limitations

And finally, this.

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One of the group’s final product, a well thought out design based on a real life client brief

While we focus 98% of our time on design theory, we do make time to get our hands dirty implementing some strategies – in this case a no-dig keyhole garden (and compost pile out of site).

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Plus we had a day of fieldtrips, where we took students on a jam-packed tour to see permaculture in action on a range of scales.

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Fat Carrot Farm (in Kettering) showing students their chicken tractor – Joel Salatin style, and their exquisite market garden below.

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Mike from Plumplot explains their dome kiln which they make their biochar in – so clever, so beautiful.

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Cara and Fin delighted us with their space efficiency and numerous worm farms in a tiny urban garden.

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And Blake showed off his strawbale house he built himself, complete with solar energy, compost loo and grey water system.

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This course was full of ‘moments’, special ones, where we got to witness students have light bulb learnings and people from crazy diverse backgrounds connecting deeply with one another. We feel so honoured to be part of it all in our own small way – we know how lucky we are.

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One of those moments I was just talking about.  Here’s Rowe delivering her grand niece, Avalon ( a student on the course) her PDC certificate at the end of the course. How amazing is that!

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Everyone. Thanks guys, you were and are a unique bunch of people FULL of goodness. We look forward to working alongside you as permacultualists well into the future to help make this world of ours nothing short of awesome.

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The team. Anton, baby Frida, me (Hannah), Rowe Morrow (with a special plaque acknowledging her work in permaculture), Nick Towle and Blake Harder.

Thanks to Nick and Rowe for doing the vast bulk of teaching and for doing it beautifully and to Blake for being the raddest course coordinator ever. Having this crew on board allowed us to hang in the background, do a light smattering of teaching, be new parents plus keep the home fires burning, i.e. do lots of work on a range of other projects.

We’re really LOVING working with an ever expanding group of people on our courses and projects. It’s both great for us not trying to do everything ourselves and wonderful to learn from one another and build friendships and networks which we suspect will span our lifetime. Sometimes, amongst the slight chaos of pulling things together and our often messy kitchen we feel like we’re nailing it. Lately this feeling is inspired by collaborating with the fine folk you can see above (plus others). It’s so good to remember we’re part of something much bigger than ourselves and that by working together it’s only going to make big and good things more possible.

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Our Orchard Design & Development

We’re slowly developing our front garden, turning it into a compact orchard with loose qualities of an edible forest garden and a key focus on cycling nutrients, building soil and looking good. You can read about the development of parts of this space here, which we’re slowly, but surely nudging towards looking something like the sketch below…

orchard sketchWe don’t really have a good photo of what this space looked like before we started work on it. But here’s a photo of the excavator moving rubbish (the previous owner dumped there) when we were in the early stages of getting things started.

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At the moment it looks like this.

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One of the first things we did when we stablised the main steep bank was plant it out with lots of vigorous seeds including white clover, calendula, borage, corn flowers and nasturtiums – plus we had volunteers such as dock and plantain spring up everywhere to ‘hold’ the bank together. We’re now enjoying the “instant” beauty of these plants while we wait for all the native ground covers and small bushes to grow. They’re so small you can’t see them in this photo, but they’re there!

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The central path has been dug out on contour, filled with these fancy things which look like milk crates (designed for grey water systems), wrapped in geo fabric and back filled with woodchips. Most of the time it’s an empty space, over designed to be able to cope with crazy floods (just in case) so there’s no risk of it flooding or causing water logging with the plant’s roots. Eventually we’ll be directing greywater from our house (kitchen/bathroom water) into this absorption trench, currently this is where the overflow from our rain tank (which is so big it never over flows) is directed.

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Globe artichokes and comfrey have been planted on the downhill side of the slope to capture excess water runoff (they love moist, fertile spaces) and to stablise the slope.The comfrey also gets slashed back a couple of times every summer and used as mulch for the fruit trees.

IMG_2171A young apple tree in its early days of being trained along the wires

IMG_2172One of our cherry trees being ‘fan’ espaliered

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We cut down the existing wild plum tree (which was all pip and no flesh) and did a bark graft with a super awesome plum variety. It’s looking pretty exciting and promising!

IMG_2166Kiwi vine with perennial nasturtium and a rogue cape gooseberry in the background

We also planted hops which are a perennial crop that grow super tall into Summer and get cut down every Autumn. The idea is that they can be trained along the same framework as the fruit trees and kiwis, just at a different height, so they can all live harmoniously in a compact space.

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Anton and some of our hops – our first harvest from our young orchard space.

In the photo below, you can see a fluffy plant on the bottom right, along the line of espaliered fruit trees – this is asparagus, which has gotta go. It’s simply too big and dominating for our super compact orchard and will compete with our fruit trees for nutrients and space above and below the ground. I had a moment of false enthusiasm when I planted it so will be transplanting it into another space this coming Winter. In a larger orchard, asparagus can be planted easily, we’re just a bit space poor on our crazy steep slope.

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One day in the not too far future the empty lines of wire you can see will be covered in kiwi vines and mature fruit trees. It will be pretty spunky. But we reckon it looks pretty spunky right now compared to the massively weedy mess it was when we started – think large sprawling cotoneasters and rosehips with thorns that could rip your eyes out. We kinda already feel like we’ve ‘made it’, imagine how we’ll feel once we’re hanging out in there, enjoying some homebrew and eating fruit straight off the tree… Good, really good.

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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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