The other day I came across this viral video titled ‘Dear Future Generations: Sorry’ from a poet named Prince Ea. In short, the video apologises immensely for all the damage we humans have created in this century due to our own selfishness and ignorance. Towards the end of the video Prince Ea ends his apology, flips the tone of the poem entirely, and reminds us humanity can make change if we get together and start acting together. Prince Ea is an inspiration for many, and his video bounces around a few good ideas as to how to go about change as it ends, yet in permaculture we like to provide practical solutions especially after reading or watching something that is inspiring. So in this article I would like to first take a look at some little-known facts about humanity, and then discuss a few simple ideas about how to put the words into action.
Societies and their inhabitant are the reason that ecosystems (such as the Amazon Rainforest) are abundant in bio-diversity and life. In Permaculture it is constantly reinforced that human disturbance leads to environmental degradation however new evidence strongly concludes that without human disturbance, eco-systems would not be as thriving if humans were out of the picture.
Our mission is to help propel the Permaculture movement forward by developing an easy to build, 100% self-sufficient greenhouse/temple of health and abundance.
We hope that our film will inspire and support you on your quest to build a greener, more sustainable and ethical world.
To support anybody who would like to master these ideas and technologies, we wrote a complete 189 page eBook. And for those of you who would like to go one step further and build your own greenhouse of the future or some other version of it, we also created over 40 pages of professionally detailed plans.
Chickweed (Stellaria media) is a popular Dynamic Accumulator.
To the untrained eye, a lot of scientific language appears superfluous – yet may best describe some detail or process within a broader concept. The scientifically trained eye, likewise, may be suspicious of superfluous language. Robert Kourik first uses the phrase ‘dynamic accumulators’, in 1986 to describe plants considered a valuable addition to composting due to their mineral/nutritional content.
Theoretically, dynamic accumulators take up high concentrations of useful nutrients (from the subsoil) into their biomass; the biomass then drops or is chopped as mulch, or composted. Ultimately nutrients are redistributed from the subsoil to the topsoil. It was highlighted in John Kitsteiner’s article that there is no scientific foundation for the term ‘dynamic accumulator’; and while a lack of evidence is not evidence of a lack, there is much work to be done to properly qualify and quantify these plants.
Here I further the discussion concerning dynamic accumulators. I present ideas to define dynamic accumulators as a group; methods for quickly pre-qualifying dynamic accumulators; and an example using plant-phosphorus concentrations to tentatively qualify dynamic accumulators of phosphorus, and identify shortcomings in the methods. The shortcomings are catch cries of scientists everywhere: “the data is in ill repair” and “we need more data”. Better qualification and some rough quantification are possible with a little bit of work & research as outlined. The post-harvest functions of dynamic accumulator materials are beyond the scope of this article.
Losses of nutrients from the topsoil via leaching, erosion and destructive soil practices are ubiquitous. Strategies to return leached nutrients from the subsoil to the topsoil appear relatively non-existent, except for the concept of deep rooting dynamic accumulators. For this reason alone, spending some time to qualify these plants is warranted. Shallower rooting species are still useful redistributors of nutrients, and are certainly worthy of addition for the original intent – good plants to compost (or mulch) with.
In agriculture, sometimes even the simplest of concepts can encourage better practice and dramatically improve the qualities of your produce. Back in June 2014 I decided to hop on the bandwagon after a good friend of mine (and much better agriculturalist), recommended I start to save seeds for the benefit of both myself and my customers.
Now over the years I have grown a wide variety of food, so I was sceptical at first as to whether it was really worth the time to start ‘brownbagging’ and collecting seeds for reproduction. It’s more common these days to purchase seeds directly from a supplier on an annual basis, which many of you will know, isn’t cheap at all. Hence, saving seeds is similar to saving money – A seed saved is a seed earned!
You might, like I was, be pretty keen to get started on a little project of your own, so that you can see first-hand the pros (and minimal cons) of protecting and reproducing the seeds you already own for generations to come.
This march on a hot Saturday, I had the chance to plant a diversity of plants in 2 swales with a total length of 200 meters. The swale systems was implemented by Tom Kendall from PRI Sunshine Coast together with an excavator driver and 3 practical training students at the property of Tom’s client near Noosa.
Afterwards Jason Davis from Permaculture Noosa Group and myself planted together 54 different species of trees and also a few vines and bushes.The climate there is subtropical which means it supports a very high diversity of plant species from many regions of this planet.
One of the swales before planting with the trees still in pots
foodwatershelter incorporated (fws) is a not-for-profit, non-denominational, non-governmental organisation that builds and runs eco-friendly children’s villages with education, social and health facilities for children in developing countries. We have bases in Australia and the United States of America.
This course will be presented 100% in Kiswahili, led by qualified permaculture trainer Nicholas Syano of PRI Kenya, together with a local team of presenters that includes representatives from one of Tanzania’s foremost agricultural institutes, staff of local NGOs and businesses, and foodwatershelter’s own staff and farm workers.
Recently I was interviewed by Jen Wilton, a UK journalist and researcher, on the subject of degrowth. What follows is the transcript of our phone interview, originally posted here.
Q: What would a degrowth society look like?
SA: A lot of mainstream environmentalism still clings to the idea that we can dematerialise our ways of living without giving up what is essentially an affluent consumer lifestyle. One of the provocations the degrowth movement offers is whether true sustainability, one planet living, actually implies a rejection of the affluent consumer way.
Degrowth distinguishes itself from some of the philosophies of voluntary simplicity (VS) that have come out of the US in particular. VS in its first phase was an attempt to reduce consumption from within the capitalist way of life. Degrowth recognises that downshifting or living simply within growth, capitalist structures isn’t going to solve many of our problems and it tends to be limited to a privileged few.
Different models for creatively delivering the standard 72 hour Permaculture Design Course (PDC) curriculum have surfaced over the years to better equip the student for the life long learning journey that permaculture inspires and demands. I have always wanted to move toward a longer term, hands on mentoring PDC where students are immersed in a thriving farm setting in small groups. This happened last year at our family’s Casitas Valley Farm and will happen again this summer.
How does this month-long permaculture Design Course and Farm Apprenticeship look like with myself and over twenty guest facilitators at Casitas Valley Farm from July 5th to August 2nd, 2015? Here is the thumbnail list of subjects that make up our curriculum for the twelve students we accept into the program:
A multi-species, leader follower grazing system has recently been implemented here at the Permaculture Research Institute (PRI). Multi-species grazing has been shown to improve pasture quality, control weed growth, and enhance pasture utilization (getting the most out of every blade of grass). All of these are achieved while increasing the carrying capacity, enabling more animals to thrive off the same plot of land, continuing the cycle of land restoration. This style has been added into the already productive rotational grazing system currently thriving at PRI. The rotational method was originally employed to prevent a common problem for most farmers known as overgrazing while maintaining the property. The overgrazing of animals is one of the biggest challenges we face in animal agriculture.
Overgrazing can be caused by the overstocking of animals, too many, or under-stocking, too few. Overstocking usually extracts too much from the land and prevents proper regeneration of pasture before the feeding animals return. Under-stocking works differently, and takes a longer period of time generally. The process is pretty simple, the grazing animal eats its favorite food for as long as it can. If too few animals are on a paddock, only the favorite food will be consumed until ultimately it is reduced to a insignificant portion of the pasture. As nature does, this favorite is replaced by a less appealing plant based on selection pressure from the cows, sheep, goats, whatever your animal may be. Eventually the plants not eaten by the grazing animal will be the only ones left. The pasture diversity and health have now been significantly reduced without ever being consumed at an extravagant rate. A very easy way to avoid the understocked problem is to finish mow an area whenever the grazing period has ended. Overgrazing can and will ultimately lead to desertification as the end result of continual land degradation. This all too common problem can be avoided simply by the proper management of animal systems.
Green-minded architect and designer William McDonough asks what our buildings and products would look like if designers took into account “all children, all species, for all time.”
William starts out by describing the design of a child toy duck that has the warning – This product contains chemicals known by the State of California to cause cancer and birth defects or other reproductive harm.
He then turns to trees and asks the audience to imagine this design assignment – Something that makes oxygen, sequesters carbon, fixes nitrogen, distils water, accrues solar energy as fuel, makes complex sugars and food, creates micro climates, changes colours with the seasons and self replicates.
Williams tempers the TED Talk with a positive point for each negative point raised.
Tips and case-studies for re-vegetating and pioneering large system.
Live-stake cuttings are a type of hardwood cutting taken from mature, woody material from certain deciduous tree and shrubs that root very easily.
Live-stakes cuttings are generally taken during a period of dormancy (AKA winter), with the long stake material being “staked” directly into the ground where they will grow long term.
A rucksack full of cutting, ready to be planted.
Because of being relatively inexpensive to use and simple to install under the appropriate conditions, live stake propagation is commonly used in large scale ecological restoration and ecological engineering (using ecological principles or living organisms to achieve engineering related goals).
In Windward’s case, we’ve been employing live-staking to pioneer multi-functional hedgerows, and provide quick soil building wind breaks for developing ecological agriculture systems.