Posted by & filed under DVDs/Books, Fungi, Plant Systems, Soil Biology, Soil Rehabilitation, Structure.

by Paul Stamets. Review by Sher June.

When research biologist Paul Stamets suggests fungi can help save the world, he is absolutely serious. In fact, he contends they can rescue it in several different ways. There are the medicines to be derived from fungi, probably more than we can yet imagine. Fungi for insect pest control. Fungi can absorb and often digest toxins from their environments — toxins as diverse as heavy metals, PCBs, oil spills, and radioactivity. Fungal partnerships can revolutionize our farming methods. And we can heal the ecosystems of damaged forest lands by introducing selected fungal species into those environments. Paul Stamets is one of the visionaries of our time. He is revolutionizing the ways we look at fungi.

This book starts by teaching the basics of mycology. Mycelium are fungal threads that form a network, usually underground. Mushrooms are just their fruiting bodies. Mycelium are so tiny that one cubic inch of soil can contain enough to stretch for 8 miles. But mycelial networks can cover as much as thousands of acres, making certain varieties of fungi the largest organisms in the world, as well as some of the oldest. Fungi build soil by breaking down organic matter, and even cracking apart rocks. Besides that, fungal mycelium enter into symbiotic relationships with trees and other green plants, helping them get water and nutrients from the wider environment by surrounding and even penetrating the roots.

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Posted by & filed under General.

My front garden on Ometepe Island in Nicaragua

“WWOOFing” has become a very common form of budget travel these days. The concept is simple enough: Workers/Travelers volunteer a few hours of labor in exchange for room and board. In your free time, you can frolic on beaches or hike mountains just as any other tourist might. It’s a great deal. It’s particularly fantastic for those of us who aren’t particularly good at sitting still or are interested in growing food, and, of course, if you’ve not got a lot of money yet still feel entitled to travel the world. A work exchange might be just the ticket.

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Posted by & filed under Insects, Livestock.

Photos: Ingrid Pullen

Late winter and early summer in the warm zones of Australia are deadly times of year for smaller farm animals, especially newborns, because of the deadly paralysis tick. Young cows up to 4 months, sheep, goats, geese, cats and dogs can all die from the powerful neurotoxin of the paralysis tick. People can also suffer and be seriously effected if the ticks are not removed within a few hours.

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Posted by & filed under Courses/Workshops.

No… that is not an over-zealous 4.5 meter diameter plumbago bush monster you have to remove from your garden there. It’s a wind break, self-mulching trellis when you cut a path through the middle, perhaps line with an arched walkway for access if you want to get fancy and plant a hardy kiwiberry and black passionfruit vine on each side, to grow all over both sides. You’ll have plumbago flowers to draw pollinating beneficials by the thousands and beautifully shaded root shelter for your fruit crops.

Yep… that water harvesting obstacle the plumbago posed earlier is history… because the shaded, mulched pathway which is also a mulched channel to micro-swale behind, is sinking the water quicker than you can say ‘pass me the hose.’ Both halves of the plumbago have enough suckers to keep it alive indefinitely, so the pollinators and mulch are free. If the plumbago dies in the seven years projected lifespan that an average fruiting vine has, then you’ll still have your trellis greened up by the vines and the makings of a hugelculture bed, great soil and the benefit of five years of fruit behind you. Problem solved and less work than ‘machete-ing’ your way through the lot and the ‘bother’ of composting it down. There’ll definitely be an extra stacked function along the way too I’m sure.

This is just one of the brainwave conversations I’ve had with myself and implemented in my own garden, since finishing my online PDC with Geoff Lawton nearly two months ago. I had read the books and ‘practiced my version of permaculture’ for 20 years in my own suburban garden before doing the online course. I can say without hesitation I would not have come up with this idea beforehand, because I would not have been thinking of water harvesting in the way that led me to it.

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Posted by & filed under Commercial Farm Projects, Demonstration Sites, Education Centres, General.

Timber-frame raisings have become an annual intern group experience

There is no better way to gain hands on experience in permaculture than by spending time on an established (or establishing) site and learning what the work entails day-in and day-out. Interning on a site should provide an equal exchange of one’s labor for the opportunity to gain knowledge and skills. This is a risk mitigation strategy: it allows interns to develop their goals and interests before making a large financial investment for their own site. As a farmer or site director, one has the opportunity to leverage affordable labor in exchange for knowledge and often room and board as well.

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Posted by & filed under Animal Forage, Biodiversity, Livestock.

Periodic livestock grazing keeps invasive plant in check, helps restore views and biodiversity.

This image shows goats in a fenced test plot eating invasive Phragmites australis marsh grass.
Photo: Jennifer Brundage, Duke University

DURHAM, N.C. — Herbivores, not herbicides, may be the most effective way to combat the spread of one of the most invasive plants now threatening East Coast salt marshes, a new Duke University-led study finds.

Phragmites australis, or the common reed, is a rapid colonizer that has overrun many coastal wetlands from New England to the Southeast. A non-native perennial, it can form dense stands of grass up to 10 feet high that block valuable shoreline views of the water, kill off native grasses, and alter marsh function.

Land managers traditionally have used chemical herbicides to slow phragmites’ spread but with only limited and temporary success.

Now, field experiments by researchers at Duke and six other U.S. and European universities have identified a more sustainable, low-cost alternative: goats.

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Posted by & filed under Economics, Peak Oil.

The shale gas revolution was meant to bring lasting prosperity. But the result of the gas glut may be just a bubble, producing no more than a temporary recovery that masks deep structural instability.

Originally published March 2013

Recent headlines in the US press about the coming economic boom heralded by the shale gas revolution would lead you to think we are literally swimming in oil. A spate of reports last year, in particular the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) World Energy Outlook (WEO) in November 2012, forecast that the US will outstrip Saudi Arabia as the world’s largest oil producer by 2017, becoming, as Reuters put it, “all but self-sufficient in net terms” in energy production. According to the IEA, the projected increase in oil production from 84 mbpd (million barrels per day) in 2011 to 97 mbpd in 2035 will come “entirely from natural gas liquids and unconventional sources” — largely shale oil and gas — while conventional oil output will begin to fall from 2013.

These resources can only be mined at the cost of massive environmental pollution: their extraction involves hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”; pressurised injection of a mixture of water, sand and detergents to create new cracks in the rock to force out the gas), using the technique of horizontal drilling (1). But their exploitation in the US has brought about the creation of hundreds of thousands of jobs and offers the advantage of cheap and abundant energy. Exxon Mobil’s 2013 Energy Outlook says the shale gas revolution will make the US a net exporter by 2025. But is the shale revolution all it’s fracked up to be? The ongoing fragility of the global economy should give pause for thought. Spain’s once-flourishing economy — the Eurozone’s fourth largest in 2008 — is now in dire straits as its supposedly unstoppable property bubble burst unexpectedly that same year, with house prices dropping by a third. But policymakers have learnt few lessons from the 2008 crash, and may be on course to repeat similar mistakes in the petroleum sector.

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Posted by & filed under Courses/Workshops.

What: Permaculture for Development Aid: 5-day Course
When: 19-23 January, 2015
Where: PRI Zaytuna Farm, NSW, Australia

Are you interested in using Permaculture to assist development in the third world? If so, then this is the course for you.

This course addresses the basics of where to start, how to plan and what to do in establishing a Permaculture project in the developing world with the objective of assisting local community development and promoting environmental stewardship. It covers a range of practical solutions to major social and environmental challenges facing communities in the developing world today. It looks at how we as individuals or cooperative groups can use Permaculture to practically address these problems in real-world situations on the ground in the current global social-political climate. It considers how to research, plan and implement projects, establish legal frameworks, design organisational structures and project formats, cultivate community connections, research project potentials, acquire land, acquire capital, manage the logistics of implementation, jump through bureaucratic hoops, produce reports and publicise your work. It is a whistle-stop tour of the adventure that is establishing Permaculture aid projects in the developing world.

Find out more and register here!

Posted by & filed under Soil Rehabilitation.

Trumpet vine (Campsis radicans)

We permaculturalists like to say there is no such thing as a weed, just a plant whose virtues we haven’t yet learned to appreciate. But when we talk about sheet mulching, we’re usually not concerned just with improving the soil, we also intend to smother the existing, unwanted vegetation so we can start fresh. In fact, I will bet you that every single time you hear someone say a sheet mulch "didn’t work",  what they mean is that it failed to kill the weeds. Let’s call a spade a spade: if you’re sheet mulching, you want the weeds to die, and if it doesn’t work the first time, you want to know why not.

In any given climate, some plants will be more difficult to smother than others. For example, some posters to permaculture forums have tried and failed repeatedly to smother Bermuda grass (Cynadon dactylon) and bindweed (Convolvulaceae), while I’ve had little trouble sheet mulching over these at any time of year in my own climate. I’ve now discovered one plant that requires special treatment in my climate — trumpet vine (Campsis radicans) — and I’d like to share my experience in attempting to eliminate it from my garden.

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Posted by & filed under DVDs/Books.

By Sandor Ellix Katz. Review by Sher June.

This book should be read by everyone who eats. Sandor Ellix Katz first takes on corporate agriculture, extensively detailing how it poisons and depletes our foods and the earth. He then introduces the alternative food revolution of individuals and communities retaking control of their food and working for food justice, safety and security. In his own words, "This revolution will not be genetically engineered, pumped up with hormones, covered in pesticides, individually wrapped or microwaved…. This revolution is nourishing and sensual. This revolution reinvigorates local economies. This revolution rescues traditional foods that are in danger of extinction and revives skills that will enable people to survive the inevitable collapse of the unsustainable, globalized, industrial food system."

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Posted by & filed under Courses/Workshops.

Permaculture Essentials for the Pacific NW, 36-hour class, only $5 per hour — schedules vary by location.

Photos © Kerry McQuaid

Permaculture is “Earth Care, People Care, and Return of Surplus,” combining traditional and innovative methods that are sustainable and energy saving, enriching to the soil and all life. Design a system to feed your family, or complete additional short classes to earn your certificate and work as a consultant.

Permaculture Essentials for the Pacific NW covers permaculture history and ethics and goes into depth on the core concepts for creating sustainable systems by observing connections and capturing energy. Explore the energy transactions of trees, the roles of fungi, and the many functions of living soil. Learn pH, mineral availability, and enriching your soil with worm beds, weeds as repair tools, and compost fixing strategies. Study landscape effects on climate and temperate climate design for your home and landscape from balcony or kitchen gardens to main crops and food forests. This course prepares you to design a sustainable system for your yard or small farm in the Pacific NW.

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Posted by & filed under Aid Projects, Community Projects, Demonstration Sites, Education Centres.


Our demonstration gardens reduce reliance on chemical pesticides and fertilizers while increasing agricultural productivity and providing better nutrition. This project will help children in six Cameroon schools design, plant and maintain a demonstration garden. Their new knowledge, tools and skills will help the whole community eat more nutritiously with less work for years to come. Surplus produce can be sold to generate extra income.

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