As people become urbanised, they start looking at the world in urban ways. What does that car or house say about that person? How does that person’s occupation affect their social standing? People may not admit it, but they understand the answers to these questions intuitively. As permaculturalists, we need to apply these same observational skills to our permacultural adventures.
These observational skills are important for permaculture because they allow you to read a landscape. No two pieces of land are ever the same! Whether that land is in an urban area or a rural area you can gather a huge amount of information as to its suitability for your next permaculture project simply by observation over a period of time. These skills will also allow you to identify ways to adapt your land to your particular purpose.
Reading a landscape is an observational skill so I have decided to take you on a virtual tour of the mountain range that I live in and tell you what I see in the different spots that we stop off at. I will highlight things at each location that I have learned on my food forest permaculture journey, and that I hope to impart to you the reader. I hope you enjoy the tour!
5-Day Workshop with Kay Baxter (from NZ’s Koanga Institute) at the PRI’s Zaytuna Farm, NSW, Australia
In our changing and unstable world, the question of food security is becoming increasingly relevant. Our ability to grow healthy food locally and sustainably is dependent in many ways on the quality of our seeds. It has been a focus of the Koanga Institute for many years to support home gardeners with the skills needed for self reliance, and understanding the process of saving high quality seed that is well adapted to local climates is fundamental to this. Almost all seed available commercially today is grown by large companies either in Europe or the USA. This leaves the home gardener extremely vulnerable to global instability if they are not saving their own seeds. Genetic diversity in our food crops has been lost on a drastic scale due to the industrialisation of our food production. The incredible diversity we once had, with thousands of genetically unique varieties, has been reduced to a tiny number of varieties that have been selected for their suitability to commercial applications (not the requirements of a home gardener).
We distort reality when we omit the health and environmental costs associated with burning fossil fuels from their prices. When governments actually subsidize their use, they take the distortion even further. Worldwide, direct fossil fuel subsidies added up to roughly $500 billion in 2010. Of this, supports on the production side totaled some $100 billion. Supports for consumption exceeded $400 billion, with $193 billion for oil, $91 billion for natural gas, $3 billion for coal, and $122 billion spent subsidizing the use of fossil fuel-generated electricity. All together, governments are shelling out nearly $1.4 billion per day to further destabilize the earth’s climate.
A certain coal-strewn road in Madrid, New Mexico
— the remnants of a now defunct railway.
Alternately barren and spectacular, the southwest United States has piqued the imagination of Americans and people across the world for generations. The site of gold rushes, Native American homelands, and a culture of lawlessness that has yet to fade completely, much of the land was degraded and destroyed long before Hollywood discovered how to cash in on retelling stories from its checkered past. Films may glorify the breadth and scope of the iconic terrain, but the essence and character of the Southwest ecology has been drastically altered; it little resembles what it once was.
Editor’s Note: It’d be great if more people would share their successes and failures in similar fashion as Greg has below. The reason I say this is three-fold — 1) you get valuable feedback from readers on how to overcome your challenges, 2) readers can learn from your mistakes and thus hopefully avoid them, and 3) people new to permaculture will have a decent dose of reality as they start their on-the-ground work, and so won’t give up in despair the moment things don’t immediately pan out as anticipated! Send your articles to editor (at) permaculturenews.org !
Incredible results from the master after just three months in the same temperate climate as us.
Did you and our family have the same experience? Did you watch Geoff’s Food Forest DVD with mouth agape, saying “wow” to yourself at least a dozen times?
You saw it — plan, excavate, mulch, plant. Stand back and be amazed as your planned accelerated succession of productive plants unfolds.
We were lucky enough to have the property and funds to give it a try. I think we’ve failed. Here I’ll explain what we did, mistakes we know about, and the results. Maybe you can spot more mistakes and give us some ideas of where we can go from here.
Design science is at the root of any definition of permaculture or put simply, permaculture is design science. — Bill Mollison
Permaculture is a design/holistic/integrative science, whereas the mainstream/academic science is reductionist — that is, to understand how things work, scientists break a system and study the tiny parts.
Nevertheless, permaculture can benefit from reductionist science, to find relevant knowledge and new design ideas, but above all to gain some academic arguments to demonstrate the validity and legitimacy of its principles and techniques.
This is an article which shows some of the links I’ve found between scientific articles published in national and international journals, while searching facts and numbers to help me design my property. During the process, some ideas just popped, so I included them to make the article a “live performance” of the usefulness of lurking in the scientific jungle sometimes.
Over a period of less than 10 years, James and Mary Kniskern transformed their sod-based lawn into a vibrant, blooming habitat that not only reduces their impact on the land but also rewards them with a bounty of edible plants as well as honey-producing bees.
The fifth of an acre where James and Mary Kniskern live in Arnold [Maryland, USA] was about what you’d expect for a suburban dwelling: grass, azaleas, daffodils in the spring, pachysandras year-round. As you’d expect, it required the drone of a mower and sweat non-equity to keep it in shape.
“I didn’t like to mow,” says James.
But what was the alternative?
Less than a decade later, the Kniskerns are living the alternative. Their yard is like none other on their block. It’s the eco-gardener’s version of The Limbo Song. The how low can you go? part involves occasional weeding, plenty of harvesting… and no mowing.
Before the Kniskerns headed down the wood-chipped path to zero grass, they considered buying into an eco-village, so they visited several throughout the Mid-Atlantic. Each had its quirks, but what they really didn’t care for was the landscaping, which was not as tidy as what they were used to.
“It looked ugly,” James says.
But their desire to reduce their impact on the land propelled them.
YouTube is full of ‘how-to’ videos but only a few give clear instructions with professional presentation, good sound and really clear visuals. This is why I give top marks to the series of three fruit tree grafting videos from Dave Wilson Nurseries which have comprehensive instructions, good camera close-ups and a very knowledgeable presenter.
In this 9-minute video (above), the presenter explains how to graft 3 different varieties of nectarine onto one nectarine tree. The two videos below are follow-ups showing the grafting after two and six months. You can find lots more at this channel including info on grape growing and a tour round their gorgeous elevated display garden with a definite permaculture flavor.
Open to 10 persons (only) with PDC in hand that are keen to learn & assist in the design and planning of a kitchen garden, main-crop and animal system design for a young family in the beautiful town of Bangalow, Northern NSW, Australia, as a preamble to the Permaculture Urban Landscape Design course starting the following day. Click on the link here to book for the Urban Permaculture Landscape Design Course running from 13th February 2012.
Come and get hands on design, client interaction and design delivery experience in a tight time frame of 7 hours — or 77 person hours including me — in the process of site assessment, set out of earthworks and garden design and development.
In this and other nations, there are groups of children who can be abused with impunity.
by George Monbiot: journalist, author, academic and environmental and political activist, United Kingdom.
Texas is a largely-Christian state that appears to believe in neither forgiveness nor redemption. Last week the Guardian revealed the extent to which it has criminalised its children(1). Police now patrol the schools, arresting and charging pupils as young as six for breaches of discipline.
Among the villainies for which they have been apprehended are throwing paper aeroplanes, using perfume in class, cheeking the teacher, wearing the wrong clothes and arriving late for school. A 12 year-old boy with attention deficit disorder was imprisoned for turning over a desk; six years later, he’s still inside. Children convicted of these enormities – 300,000 such tickets were issued by Texas police in 2010 – acquire a criminal record. This makes them ineligible for federal aid at university and for much subsequent employment.
Yet most of them have committed no recognised crime. As one of the judges who hears their cases explained to the Guardian, “if any adult did it it’s not going to be a violation.”(2)
How exactly did I get here? When did I embark on this journey of abundance? Here I am looking back on my life, and seeing how it all started….
Raised on 75 acres of subsistence farm I was an unlikely candidate to moving to the big city of Montreal at age 20. After five years studying the discouraging field of Environmental Science and Human Environment, I found myself at a loss for solutions. Academia only paralyzed me in face of environmental challenges, and with my employment with Environment Canada preaching contorted, underwhelming solutions and finger wagging, it was all taking its toll. My studies and career where failing me greatly.
Rarely have I read an essay that knits together some very different commons with such wisdom and depth. Joline Blais’ 2006 essay, “Indigenous Domain: Pilgrims, Permaculture and Perl,” is a wonderfully insightful analysis that reveals the underlying unity and logic of commons principles. Her piece appeared in Intelligent Agent (vol. 6, no. 2), published by the Inter-Society for the Electronic Arts.
Blais’ essay is valuable because it speaks to the rift that is said to separate commons based on natural resources and those of cyberspace. The segregation of those two classes of commons has always bothered me. There are of course significant differences between managing depletable natural resources and managing cheap and limitless stores of digital information. Yet it has always struck me that the two great tribes of commoners have much more in common than not, and should be in closer consultation with each other.
Curious what goes on at the PRI Zaytuna Farm? If you live close to the farm, or are passing by, you're welcome to book yourself on a farm tour (Wednesdays at 11am only). Contact the farm manager and we'll see you soon.
We will take a minimum of 3 people at $35 p/p (groups of less than 3 adults are $50 p/p). Large groups please call to discuss pricing (at least 48 hours prior required).