Virginia Solomon is the Chair of the PA Board of Directors, and a member of the PA Education and Fundraising teams. In response to the Melbourne COVID-19 restrictions, Virginia started making and selling homemade face masks – with all profits being donated to Permaculture Australia.
If you’re wondering what has making reusable face masks got to do with permaculture…. the answer is lots! Permaculture is based on three ethics – Earth care, People care and Fair share. You can’t do one without the other. These masks will help keep people safe (People Care), reduce single use masks (Earth Care) and profits are being donated to assist with permaculture projects and being made by volunteers donating their surplus time (Fair Share).
“It is unfortunate, but I think we may be in masks for a long time to come, so we might as well have beautiful, comfortable and compostable (or almost) ones! I am still seeing a lot of single-use [masks] around, but hopefully most people will be wearing re-useable ones soon. In fact, this was the main motivator for me from a permaculture point of view – reducing waste, using donated fabrics (although we do insist that all materials be new), involving our community in something positive at such a challenging time – and helping the planet heal one small mask at a time,” Virginia Solomon
Demand for the product has skyrocketed with the announcement by the Victorian Premier on compulsory use of facemasks.
The Eltham Farmers Market kindly agreed to host a Permaculture Australia stall each Sunday. They have been a huge hit – selling out within one hour on the first day of the market! The PA facemasks are also available via postal order to ensure we can reach as many people as possible safely.
A team of volunteers including several PA members has formed to assist with the sewing and fabric cutting. More volunteers based in Melbourne to keep up with demand are urgently needed. More details are listed below.
“It has been a lot of work! Very long days but it is all worth it when people are so enthusiastic and appreciative of the quality of our masks. I have had heaps of help from some wonderful volunteers, too, so it is not just me. We are a team of six including a 12 year old! Fantastic socially distanced community experience,” Virginia Solomon
Tell me more about the masks
The homemade masks are available at the Eltham Farmers Market this Sunday 2nd August from 0800am until all sold out. You can also purchase via postal order/online using the form here.
The three layer masks are $17 each or two for $30 (plus p/handling for postal orders) and come in three sizes. 100% of the profts are being donated to PA to help minimise the impact of single use masks in the waste stream.
I’m keen to volunteer – how can I get involved?
Volunteers who are available to assist with cutting fabric or sewing (chain piecing components) this week are urgently needed. Please get in touch via the PA email: email@example.com so we can link you up. All fabric is provided and you will need to be based in Eltham or surrounds due to travel restrictions. Thanks in advance for your support.
Virginia Solomon is an active member and volunteer of Permaculture Australia, the national member based organisation. Find out more about Virginia here and here. Growing food, making things from scratch, sharing skills and working locally but thinking about global issues are all part of Virginia’s philosophy, which si captured as one of the featured casestudies on the Retrosuburbia website here.
The Eltham Farmers Marketexists to provide trading opportunities for genuine local farmers and added value makers. The local food being sold has all been grown or made by the stallholder selling it. The market is a project of local Community Group – Local Food Connect – and is proud to be accredited by the Victorian Farmers’ Markets Association. The market operates from 8am to midday every Sunday and is following all Covid-19 restrictions.
Permafund is pleased to announce the 2020 funding round is now open for applications.
What type of projects can be funded?
This year our focus is on the theme of resilient communities. This means permaculture projects that prepare a community to withstand and recover from disasters such as fire, food shortages, cyclones, drought and disease will be viewed favourably. Permaculture projects are more important than ever to help keep communities safe and strong. Applications are welcome from community groups in Australia and overseas.
How much can I apply for?
Generally, we will distribute 5 to 10 grants of up to AUD $2000 (about USD $1360) in each grant round. Applicants are asked to be prepared to discuss their proposals and provide referees where required.
The funds available are limited so please understand that not all applications can be approved for funding in this grant round.
How do I apply?
The Grant Application form and Guidelines are available in PDF and Word documents below.
“Taking responsibility for what happens to us at the time of our death is our final gift to the earth”, David Holmgren, Retrosuburbia
Composting is composting – we know how it works. Could permaculture systems include composting us, after we die? That might not be so far away. Read more from PA Board Director & volunteer Virginia Solomon about making an ‘eco exit’ that incorporates the permaculture ethics.
Once I visited an industrial composting system dealing with the (horrendous) ‘collateral’ of battery chicken farming. It was a confronting experience. As I processed the awfulness of this particular composting system, it made me think. If thousands of chicken remains can be processed scientifically and returned to the earth, could something similar be done with human bodies?
Then, a few years later, some friends of mine were demonstrating how they set up their composting system. It was one of those 3-bay numbers with a cubic meter in each bay, but they had worked out precise quantities of everything and could show that it would in fact compost everything completely. My friend was a lab technician at a school. One day a fox was killed in front of their house, and she decided to lay it out on a freshly made compost heap in the hope that the composting process would clean up the fox’s skeleton and she could use it as a model in the science lab. So she arranged the creature carefully, covered it up and waited.
Three weeks later she returned to inspect the progress. Nothing remained of the fox other than its teeth, and part of the uppermost jawbone. The rest of the animal was an outline of white ash and a bit of fur. These stories demonstrate that human remains could be safely and scientifically composted.
The state of Washington recently legalised composting burial with the world’s first facility for composting burial being developed that could process about 900 burials per year. According to Recompose (a US based outfit promoting the composting of human remains), the composting process sequesters carbon and saves the atmosphere a tonne of carbon dioxide per body when compared to cremation. I have not, however, been able to find a legal composting service in Australia.
Eco resilience – one of the garden areas at Virginia’s property.
Personally I would like to be composted and spread on my own garden. I realise this is not everyone’s idea of a perfect next phase, but at present it isn’t an option anyway. What other possibilities are there in Australia, if one wants to make as little footprint on leaving as we have been striving to make during our lives?
There is a very interesting exploration of the science and statistics behind alternative burial systems in an article in the Conversation from January this year. The author, Emma Sheppard-Simms, also explores the relative costs of departing gracefully, and points out that the technology utilised by Recompose is likely patented which would make it expensive to duplicate. Perhaps there is an opportunity to develop another system? Composting is composting after all. We know how it works.
Natural burials have been growing in popularity, and there is a comprehensive guide developed by Gathered Here which directs people to funeral directors and find places or spaces in cemeteries. It doesn’t, however, suggest how one might avoid the funeral part and just arrange the burial.
The ashes of Virginia’s mother
Before my mother died, she told us that she wanted no funeral and no permanent memorial of any kind. She wanted to disappear and only remain in memory. Of course that is not possible as she was an artist who is outlived by her paintings, and we had to celebrate her life in some way So, we had a giant afternoon tea plus gin, and invited everyone who had ever known her, but that was for them, rather than for her. In order to bypass the funeral director industry, and in the hope of remaining useful after death, she left her body to the University of Melbourne Medical School. There is a guide to the universities that take bodies for medical education. Once again, not for everyone, I imagine.
Coffins & the funeral industry
Jarlanbah Community graveyard, natural burials in a regenerating rainforest
In 2019, Australian Seniors’ Cost of Death Report found the average cost of a basic burial is $8,048, and a basic cremation costs $3,108 on average. The other issue that has environmental implications is the container in which one’s body is placed. Coffins are often made of laminated timber and sometimes even lined with lead. They have metal fixtures and fittings and, if a viewing is in order, will have synthetic satin linings and stuffing. Plywood and cardboard coffins exist, as do shrouds, and some people like to be laid to rest in other vessels such as cars and boats.
But of course the impact of the container adds to the impact of the body. Space in cemeteries is filling up, land is precious, so vertical burials are also now being practiced.
To return to Retrosuburbia and the chapter on Home Death, I had always thought that the funeral ‘industry’ was heavily regulated but, to quote David Holmgren again: “There are endless options with very few rules and regulations for funerals… very little is required by law.” It varies from each state & territory, and even wthin these borders, so it may be worth doing some local enquiring.
Bequests and wills
Planning for one’s exit and preparing one’d legacy is a very personal thing. A funeral and burial is one part of it, but there is also your will. How can you ensure that your life’s work continues, that your philosophical approach is respected and that you continue to be remembered the way you want to be? It is a delicate issue, but for any individual or organisation that has benefitted from a bequest or endowment, it is a source of profound gratitude. Many organisations, including Permaculture Australia, accept bequests, and stipulations can be included for how you wish the money to be utilised.
If you are in a position to gift a portion of your estate, Permaculture Australia would honour your gift and invest it in continuing to support permaculture nationally or via Permafund, supporting small grant projects globally. Details including suggested wording for your bequest can be found here or contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Shani from Ecoburbia in Fremantle talks about co-housing the power of community before and during COVID-19 in this great podcast interview here
Join Morag Gamble with leading thinkers, activists, authors, designers and practitioners to explore ‘What Now?’ – what is the kind of thinking we need to navigate a positive and regenerative way forward, what does a thriving one-planet way of life look like, where should we putting our energy. This months interviews include David Holmgren available here.
Eco Resilience House: A farmhouse in the suburbs is the home of PA Board member Virginia Solomon and featured as a Retrosuburbia case studyand blogsite with heaps of great ideas to make your household and community more resilient here
“Imagination is essential to avoiding existential threats and creating the best of possible worlds. Linda Woodrow’s deep well of imagination helps us in this essential task.”
David Holmgren delves into why Melliodora Publishing has chosen to release their first fictional work, ‘470‘ by Linda Woodrow here.
Kate from Purple Pear Farm. Photo: Maitland Mercury
MoragGamble interviewed about incorporating permaculture principles into house & garden design including her family home in Queensland here
Take a Happen Films tour of the incredible tiny house truck that runs on waste vegetable oil! BEV, the biosphere emergency vehicle, is the mobile home for PA members Brenna Quinlan and Charlie Mgee when they’re on the road traveling in Australia.
The 470 Book Launch is available to watch with author Linda Woodrow speaking about her new book, along with special guests David Holmgren, Robyn Frances, Starhawk and Charlie Mgee! Buy the book here
Enirely online, Costa covered more than 25000km on the virtual road meeting a mix of people carrying out a whole range of projects around food reflecting its importance to our future food security. Check out PA members Northey Street City Farm, Jo from Gentle Footprints Permaculture and many more!
The drought, catastrophic bushfires and now the global Covid-19 pandemic. It’s been a bumpy start to 2020 and it’s only July, yikes. Gaps in community and household resilience coincided with a huge spike in folks wanting to know about backyard food production, sustainable living and permaculture. Social media groups, including the PA Facebook group, had hundreds of new member requests each day. PA members reported overwhelming demand and shared an incredible range of free resources here to support the requests coming in.
In the words of PA member Meg McGowan aka Permacoach “Permaculture is suddenly very popular”!
PA’s Kym asked several of our PA members the question – why is permaculture so hot right now? And will it last?
Meg McGowan (right) with Rowe Morrow, friend & mentor. Photo credit: supplied.
” It’s not just a renewed interest among those of us that have always felt aligned to the ethics and principles of permaculture, but a surge among people that have never heard of it before. Why? At a pragmatic level, permaculture offers people and efficient, low cost way to produce some food. With the isolation restrictions and economic burdens of Covid-19 an increased interest in home grown food is understandable. Growing food saves money, but it’s about so much more than that.
Shortages in supermarkets have brought home to many people the risks of relying upon others for their basic needs. People recognised that being able to feed themselves from their own garden would provide a buffer against the collapse of the industrialised food system. Permaculture can teach them to do that. Local farmers recently saw a huge boost in income as many people woke up to the obvious solution to an insecure model; buy locally grown and produced food and you build food security.
Artwork by Meg McGowan
But permaculture goes beyond growing some herbs and veggies, or keeping some chickens in the back yard. It’s an ethically based pattern for designing and evolving systems that increase ecological health while providing for human needs. I think this is why it’s suddenly so hot right now. We have come through a summer, an autumn and the beginnings of a winter where the destruction caused by human consumption and greed has finally become impossible to ignore.”
Michael Wardle, Savour Soils Permaculture. Photo credit: supplied.
“Over the last few months since the drought, fires and the COVID crisis, which still continues in many areas, I have found there has been a huge increase in not only my design services but the courses offered here. To the point where one sold out in ten hours! As to why?. Well, when we look around at nature, we see permaculture is surrounding us. Things that are in a beautiful symbiotic relationship, the mutualism of living things showing the dynamic equilibrium, supporting each other where the system as a whole grows in wealth.”
“I think people are starting to understand that we cannot keep going on “as normal” and that things can change if we want to or have to. Again, the recent episodes have highlighted this. We do not “do” permaculture, but do things in a permaculture way. The idea of building resilience in the face of these events has become very appealing to many and seeing some of the self-reliance that can be offered by looking at things with a permaculture lens.”
“Following the wildfires here on the far south coast back in January,there was a steady stream of consultancy work visiting burnt properties and that continues today six months later. Then the COVID-19 lockdown saw an increased interest in household food growing and bookings onto permaculture courses.
It’s interesting that when faced with severe circumstances, a fresh batch of the population begin a process of looking for solutions and permaculture sits well placed as a light on the hill.”
Artwork by PA Member Brenna Quinlan
PA Life member and permaculture co-originator David Holmgren also wrote about this topic in a recent article stating that:
“while we [in the permaculture and kindred movements] have been doing some combination of modelling and teaching about the ways to live better with less, it has remained an option that, until the pandemic, most people had little inkling of or interest in. The current explosion of interest in home-based self-reliance, like previous waves of interest over the decades, is countercyclical to the faith and fortune in mainstream economic values and options. But the intensity of this downturn has acted as a slap in the face for many people dozing in the comfortable cocoon of consumer capitalism.”
“If you are new to permaculture then know that this movement is full of people willing to help. There are plenty of online communities but please try to find permaculture people locally and connect with them. Changing human society will require us to be geographically connected and to figure out how to get along with people that don’t share our biases.
If you already know some permaculture then it’s time to step up. The planet needs you. The task is huge but collectively we each only need to do a little. Start a book club and read any of the great permaculture books together. Set up a produce share, or a permaculture learning circle. Join your local and national permaculture bodies and volunteer some of your time to advancing permaculture. Find your social edges. Where does permaculture begin and end in your local community? Which edges are already closely aligned or supporting what you are doing and how can you each share more with the other?”
More information and resources:
Permaculture Australia is the national permaculture member based organisation. Sign up as a member here today and help us advocate for permaculture solutions. You can also follow Permaculture Australia on Facebook, Instagram and join our Facebook group. If you have skills to share and want to assist with promoting permaculture further, please get in touch via email@example.com
PA professional members Brett, Nici, Trae & Bronte from Limestone Permaculture Farm, are based in the picturesque Stroud Road Village on the mid-north coast of NSW. The property kicked off in 2010 initially as a project to move rural, design & create a productive small acre permaculture farm. Ten years on, the farm demonstrates that a thoughtful design process, based on permaculture ethics & principles, is essential to achieve a balanced, healthy & bountiful farm, homestead & garden. PA’s Kym chats with Brett and Nici about permaculture living, the importance of community networks & the determination to continue to build resilience, skills and sharing
Tell us about the journey of Limestone Permaculture.
Our awakening began around 2003 when Nici became increasingly unwell with an immune-related illness whilst we were residing in Newcastle. This fuelled our need to provide a more organic life for our family & re-ignited Brett’s childhood gardening upbringing. So it started with growing, eating & living organically and grew ‘in abundance’ to encompass sharing, community gardening, researching and not long after… permaculture! In 2020 we are enjoying working as a family on our beautiful farm providing permaculture principled education & demonstration, homesteading skills & farmgate Co-op fresh produce. We also implement permaculture principled projects within our community, schools & wider region. For us at Limestone Farm, permaculture means embracing a ‘Whole of Life’ living system with an essential ‘Evolving Design Process’ at its core, fundamentally striving for a naturally sustainable & resilient life, guided by Permaculture Ethics & Principles. In addition, permaculture organically & mutually integrates human needs with climate, landscapes, plants, animals, structures & community.”
There are many examples of permaculture principles at your property – what are your favourites?
Some of our favourite principled design elements include: Catch & Store energy: our outdoor woodfired oven that gives us at least 3 days cooking from one initial burn. Design from Patterns to Detail: the orchard on water harvesting contour swales, provides a range of fruit year-round and is an evolving habitat for our farm’s wildlife. Use Small & Slow Solutions: the duck pond doubling as a silt trap that overflows into a series of smaller swale silt traps for slowing water movement, collecting nutrient dense silt/soil for re-use in surrounding gardens. Use Edges & Value the Marginal: the Hybrid Shade House for tender sub-tropical production that doubles as the Quail Amazon. Integrate Rather than Segregate: the main poultry run that integrates duck layers, duck breeders, chicken layers, exclusion grow tunnels, firewood storage and micro food forest.and not to forget Produce no Waste: the ‘Gentleman’s Pissatorium’ that inoculates hay bales in readiness for hot composting.
Your website talks about building a positive future for yourselves as well as the community. How important are community networks and what activities are you involved in?
Permaculture micro farm, Gloucester High school. Photo credit: supplied by Limestone Permaculture
Our regional network groups are the anchor to build community resilience & a skilled & sharing community! We have many hard-working groups including other permaculture educators, Permaculture Hunter,Young Farmers Connect, Hunter Organic Growers, Slow Food Hunter Valley, local Landcare groups… just to name a few. These groups along with Limestone Permaculture & our local town groups underpin our community engagement, inclusive planning, local skill development & volunteer strengthening. Our latest community initiative is the design, planning & implementation of a Permaculture Micro-Farm at Gloucester High School (NSW) with stage one earth works nearing completion.
It’s been a rocky 2020 so far for many. How has this impacted on your property – and did you make any changes in your property design?
Aerial photo of Limestone Permaculture. Photo credit: Limestone Permaculture
There is no doubt that the last twelve months has many reassessing their current way of life and future goals. Debilitating drought, devastating bushfires & pandemic isolation has proven to be an important time for observation, analysis & interaction. The pandemic reinforced our determination as a family unit to continue to upskill & educate ourselves, make & create, grow, produce, preserve and share all that we do. It also further emboldened our passion for resilience, yet reaffirmed the importance to be part of a supportive & regenerative regional network. During the drought & bushfires, the overall design held true and it made for a great opportunity to take note of the farms various systems & elements, what survived, what thrived and what failed.
Some of the changes we made and are still making include:
Additional north to west facing deciduous trees to eliminate afternoon summer sun
Additional bio-fertiliser barrel spreaders & overflow water storage to enhance water security & soil life
Overhead Animal Arbours to promote shade in summer and expand growing areas
Additional exclusion tunnels to assist shading annual crops as part of the function.
You’ve been doing Zoom presentions for community groups during the pandemic and in lieu of payment, asked for groups to donate to Permafund instead – thank you! Why did you choose to donate to Permafund?
Apart from charitable groups & individuals, Permafund offers those making a living from their Permaculture Ethical & Principled Businesse to share the abundance on another level, not unlike sharing produce and knowledge within your community. We may not always have the opportunities or capabilities to assist with projects outside of our region but donating through Permafund, which is part of our Fair Share Ethic, is a way we can help to support those that can. This support assists projects to ‘Care for the Earth’ & ‘Care for People’ & life in general.
What is coming up for the rest of 2020 – and any final messages?
With only one PDC to complete this year due to restrictions & our shortened time frame, we are undertaking various on-farm projects & expanding upon our food production. We are constantly upgrading the farm to also enhance the experience for future students & visitors alike. Our usual busy schedule of farming, homesteading, educating, consultation, regional projects and community support continues as does our passion for knowledge & experience! We see 2020 as an opportunity for reflection and positive change for many. Daily life is no longer as dependable. We all feel the need for safety & degrees of self-reliance. From healthy soils to a healthy gut (and everything in between), we are making it our business to pass on as much of our knowledge & skills as possible to hopefully enable others to live healthier & happier lives.
Limestone Permaculture are a professional member of Permaculture Australia, the national permaculture member based organisation. Not a member? Sign up and join us here today.
PA’s Permafund has provided dozens of small grants to permaculture community projects in Australia and internationally. Donations over $2 are tax deductible in Australia and can be set up as recurring or one off donations. Find out more including how to donate here
Limestone Permaculture provide property tours, design consultancy, permaculture courses (PDC and intro courses), school farm tours and a farm gate stall. For more details check out their website, Facebook and Instagram page(s). Watch and listen to more about Limestone Permaculture via the Happen Films podcast and short film below.