Category Archives: Permaculture

Life at Zaytuna – PDC Students Given Design Brief


Yasaman surveys with the laser level
Photos © Craig Mackintosh

We’re halfway through our latest Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC) course, and the students appear to be learning a lot as well as having a lot of fun along the way.

Today their knowledge store was tested and stretched, by way of having their minds applied to making their own site design in a real-life consultation situation! For the rest of the course, along with continuing classes, the students will spend some of their time working together in groups on a design that will be presented to the landowner at the end of the week.

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Also posted in Design, Photojournalism

Taking a Quick Peek at Djanbung Gardens

A couple of days ago I had opportunity to briefly visit Djanbung Gardens, which is just outside the infamous little village of Nimbin, in NSW’s Nothern Rivers region. I thought I’d tag along and so you guys can take a peek..

Djanbung Gardens is the host site for Erda Institute Incorporated, a Permaculture training centre. The site and training centre were established in 1993 by one of Australia’s best known Permaculturists, Robyn Francis. Robyn has worked hard to make Djanbung gardens a good example of Permaculture in action, and although I was visiting in the dead of Winter, and only stopped by for a couple of hours, the design aspects of the site spoke volumes. I’d like to visit again when I have more time – perhaps in the Spring or Summer, when the growth phase is in full swing.

Robyn was working internationally when I visited, but Janelle Schafer, Erda’s head tutor and administrator, kindly volunteered to show me around. Here are a few photos to give those who haven’t had opportunity to visit Djanbung Gardens a bit of a glimpse of the site.

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Also posted in Demonstration Sites

Rosina Buckman – Living Smart on the Sunshine Coast


Photos © Craig Mackintosh

Rosina Buckman tells me she’s 72 years old. She looks honest enough, so I’ll take her at her word, but her youthful spirit and energetic stride did give me a moment of pause. And more than that – her urban homestead was overflowing with clear evidence of passionate and fruitful labours that belie her age. I’m not the only one that’s impressed either, as the Sunshine Coast Council have just presented Rosina with one of their 2009 Living Smart awards – she’s their ‘Edible Landscape Winner’.

Rosina, a New Zealander by birth, lives in Tewantin, a small suburb on the fringes of Noosa – a tourist hot-spot on the Sunshine Coast in south-east Queensland. This is a land of ululant lorikeets and cackling kookaburras. The bird life in particular seem intoxicated with life, and nature in general seems jubilant – either optimistic, or just plain carefree, in the face of all we humans are throwing at it.

And we are throwing a lot at it.

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Also posted in Demonstration Sites

Life at Zaytuna – Rainy Days


Photos copyright © Craig Mackintosh

The area around Zaytuna Farm recently experienced the worst floods for many years (since 1974 they say) – then it dried out for a few weeks. And now, over the last five days, it’s been back to raining again….

When the floods were on, people commented to Geoff, asking how he was coping with the power outages. Geoff was blissfully unaware that there had been any (since Zaytuna runs off grid with solar).

The property is buffered in another way as well – the swales are great equalisers when it comes to water. They keep water flowing from the taps and keep the grass green long after a drought has hit and burnt off the neighbours’ fields, and they also ensure that when a flood strikes, the water is slowed down and sunk – thus avoiding rivers of water carrying away soil and more. To a great degree, the earthworks here not only drought-proof the land, but also flood-proof it as well.

These things are well worth considering with the promise of more and more droughts and floods in the coming years….

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Also posted in Natural Building, Water

Permaculture Miracles in the Austrian Mountains


Photo credit: Keith Johnson

I’d like to introduce you to Sepp Holzer, a man who not only produces food in a very unlikely location, at a high and frigid altitude in Austria, but is also growing very unlikely crops there as well — and all without the use of chemicals, and with minimal input of human labour.

I guess you could call him a European counterpart of people like Bill Mollison and Masanobu Fukuoka — as all three independently discovered ways of working with nature that save money and labour and that don’t degrade the environment, but actually improve it. In Holzer’s case, he was effectively running a permaculture farm for more than two decades before he even realised his unconventional approach could be termed ‘permaculture’.

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Also posted in Design

Community-Based Rain Forest Restoration Work is Huge Success in Borneo

In his twenty minute talk, Willie Smits (a Dutch forestry scientist who emigrated to Indonesia 20 years ago to help the country grow trees) explains how a chance encounter with a dying baby Orangutan changed the direction of his work – culminating not only in his creating the biggest orangutan rehabilitation center in the world, but also in restoring large tracts of rainforest in a community-based endeavour that is bringing work and prosperity to the people too.

The word ‘Permaculture’ is never mentioned in the TED presentation above, but the project that is the subject of this talk certainly contains many elements of Permaculture design. Among the spectacular results of the project is a documented cooling in local climate, increased cloud cover and rainfall, and a rapid increase in biodiversity of flora and fauna.

Also posted in Diversity

A Farm for the Future

Seeing Permaculture promoted on the BBC is yet another positive sign of the times. In this 50 minute presentation, wildlife film-maker Rebecca Hosking returns to her farming roots – hoping to take over the reins of her family farm in Devon, UK – and duly considers exactly what kind of farm she wants to develop. Significantly, Rebecca looks at where the world is heading in regards to food production, and, in particular, thinks about the serious implications of peaking oil supplies on our fossil-fuel dependent agriculture.

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Also posted in Consumerism, Diversity, Global Warming, Health, Society

An Interview with Jules Dervaes

Today we are pleased to talk to a very interesting man – a man on a very interesting mission; on what he describes as “the path to freedom”, where he escapes being part of the problem, to become part of the solution. Before we get started, watch the following ABC clip to get an idea of his work, and then we’ll hear from the man himself.

Craig Mackintosh: Thank you Jules. Thanks for taking the time to talk to us about your work. Most of our readers will have watched the YouTube movie above, so will have an inkling of what Path to Freedom is about, but I wonder if you could fill in any pertinent details the short news report may have left out, so as to round out our grasp of what you’re doing today?

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Also posted in Consumerism, Society, Urban Gardening

Chemical Based Farming Systems Robbing Us of Nutrients


Full Report
(5mb PDF)
Executive Summary
(PDF)
2-Page Consumer Summary
(PDF)
Press Release
(PDF)

Nutrient levels in food supply eroded by pursuit of high yields

When we sit down to a meal of supermarket-bought produce, we like to think we’re getting a reasonable cross-section of the body’s nutrient requirements, but studies are showing that our chemical intensive monocrop farming systems are not delivering the vital ‘secondary nutrients’ that our ancestors enjoyed. Plants ‘flourishing’ on fast, soluble chemical fertilisers  get ‘lazy’ and do not develop the deep, healthy root systems that pull additional elements out of the soil. In addition, the soil micro-organisms that break down organic matter and minerals to feed to plant roots are being slaughtered through chemical bombardment and violent mechanised manipulation of their environment.

Essentially, we’re getting robbed, and having to pay for it in reduced health/vitality/longevity and increased medical bills.

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Also posted in Health, Pollution, Soil

The Rise and Predictable Fall of Globalized Industrial Agriculture

Today I’d like to introduce you to a (well written and beautifully presented) report, titled – ‘The Rise and Predictable Fall of Globalized Industrial Agriculture‘ (55 page, 2.4mb PDF). The title says it all. Should you be concerned? Yes.

Your concern, however, should not be that the globalised industrial agribusiness model will collapse – this is not only inevitable, but also necessary, and, might I add, desirable – the focus should instead be on when and how it will fall.

Let me explain.

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Also posted in Energy, Global Warming, Pollution, Soil