To close off a second day of CelebrATE at PRI Sunshine Coast, we strapped on belts to become human marimbas, a musical instrument similar to a xylophone. This was the second musical workshop of this permaculture celebration, a jam session with all of the participants. We had to lean back to stretch out the keys between two people, each playing half the instrument and coordinating to connect the high and low notes. We looked at each other skeptically wondering whether a crowd of 15 normal people with little musical ability could play anything other than a dissonant mess.
With patience, Linsey Pollack from the Unusual Suspects, a local community band, taught us some simple melodies and orchestrated the participants to play them into a full song. Somehow we managed to make a recognizable song! There was lots of laughter and even a solo on the “leaf whistle” (improvised with leaves found on the farm) by Mal Webb and a few brave volunteers.
The Unusual Suspects were closing off a second day of good food, permaculture workshops, jam sessions and music making with Macedonian-inspired tunes during CelebrATE at the PRI Sunshine Coast. It was a synergy of music and farming, a celebration of community, sustainable living, and the life of Bill Mollison.
May 4th, the Friday before the event, had marked Bill Mollison’s birthday, only the second since he passed away in 2016. Zaia and Tom Kendall organized the first CelebrATE in 2017 in commemoration of Bill and his life’s work by opening their farm to celebrate rather than mourn his passing. They enjoyed the experience so much, that they decided to repeat it again for a second year with thoughts of continuing it as a yearly event.
“There was a real buzz. We don’t make any money off the event, but that’s not what it’s about. It’s about bringing people together and getting them involved with permaculture and music,” said Zaia.
Music and Permaculture
As a musician herself, it was natural for Zaia to bring music together with permaculture when organizing this event. She is best known for her performances on the marimba, originally a West African instrument, and the Pyrophone Juggernaut, the world’s largest hand-operated multi-octave fire organ.
“Music brings people together. It is the universal language. Everyone can play music, even if they say they can’t,” said Zaia.
Tom also noted how this is similar to the powerful role that music plays in tribal community, where music is not just for professionals, but for everyone. This is what helps to hold together strong unified villages and has the same effect in modern society when we all become a part of the music.
Farm Tour and Workshops
During the event, Tom gave a farm tour, explaining the systems that he has put into place on their property Maungaraeeda, meaning “place of food” and presented his biodigestor. Tom and Zaia design and manage their property to be almost entirely self-sufficient, with most cooking done on biogas, water heating done with rocket stoves, solar energy providing electricity for the property, humanure processed in a compost toilet that is recycled for the fruit trees and water caught from rain and stored on the farm in tanks and dams.
There were workshops throughout the three days on technical permaculture topics like raising chickens, food forestry, fermenting foods, managing a nursery and biodigestors as well as music with Mal Webb, Kylie Morrigan and the Unusual Suspects. The aim as well as to inspire and build community was to teach different aspects of managing a home garden and farm for individuals and families.
Mal Webb’s workshop on vocalization broke the ice on the first day and gave everyone the chance to be a bit silly. The self-professed vocal adventurer started by teaching all the parts of our mouth we can use to make music, with everything from clicks, the falsetto, to tibetan throat singing. We moved on to rolling our rrs and finally learned beatboxing. You can see more of Mal’s unusual and incredible vocal skills here.
The practical permaculture workshops focused on simple easy ways to improve how we grow what we eat in both urban and larger acre situations.
All topics focused on simple and easy to implement solutions such as the biodigestor. Tom has installed an in-the-ground model with only one moving part, that is relatively low cost. It provides Tom and Zaia with almost 100% of their energy for cooking using only one and a half buckets of manure from three cows. It is especially productive during the summer and could be even more productive by implementing a passive heating system.
Chicken tractors were another focus, with example of both rectangular and circular chicken tractors. Amanda Moore shared an original design for a geodesic dome chicken tractor with a more natural space for the chickens to move perfect for prepping the soil for keyhole garden beds.
Changes in the Landscape
Tom shared his direct experience recuperating the landscape of Maungaraeeda throughout the three days. Over the years, they were able to build the rocky clay shale soil to grow garden vegetables with the biodigestor effluent, compost, chicken tractoring and humanure. With the new trees in the food forest and around the property, Tom has also reduced the incidence of frost on the farm.
Geoff Lawton made a guest appearance to teach about Tom’s food forest and explain proper establishment and maintenance of this simple method of farming with a practical demonstration of the easy “chop and drop” method.
To see an excerpt of Geoff Lawton’s talk, check out the video from Lulu’s Perch here.
Many participants arrived with questions and problems and left with new solutions and concepts to put into practice. The three days provided inspiration for improvement and experimentation.
“People just need inspiration sometimes to make it work. We like inspiring and empowering people through sharing what we do. If it works for us, it might work for them,” said Zaia.
For more videos and images of the event check out permaculturesunshinecoast on instagram.
You can also find out more about Maungaraeeda at https://kendallpermaculture.com/