Permaculture Stories – Jared Robinson

Permaculture Stories – Jared Robinson

“Our main focus is to continue providing access to local food through the community garden and introducing various workshops/demonstrations that address barriers to food security, educate about good soil and plant health and offer hands on experience in growing your own food.”

Jared Robinson chatted to PA volunteer Julia about his background in permaculture, its future under coronavirus and the most underrated piece of space in the garden: the verge.


Member update – Richard Telford

With national housing unaffordability making many young people feel home ownership is out of reach, it is high time for some out-of-the-box thinking. Permaculture Principles and PA Member Richard Telford certainly applied that kind of thinking more than a decade ago when he bought a rundown cottage in Seymour, Victoria.
The goal was to deconstruct the cottage and re-use the materials to construct a new one along permaculture principles. The result was Abdallah House.

The sun facing living space of the house

And while Richard concedes he made a few mistakes along the way – such as overestimating the value of the original building when it was broken down into materials, he has some sage advice for anyone looking to do the same. “Choosing the right house to start with if you are buying a place. I bought the cheapest place I could possibly find and I bought something nobody else wanted. So I would say: be ready for an opportunity, rather than being attached to a particular thing. Have money saved up and be ready to go.
He says once you have bought – if you are going to rebuild, another thing he would do differently is to buy good quality items such as ceiling fans as this will save you later on having to replace them. And if you are going to build, collect more materials if you are using second hand, before you start.  Build a place to store the materials on the site and put them undercover.  Have a place undercover to work too,” he said.
Abdallah House is a great case study to examine if you are looking to build your first home.  See:
By Yvonne Campbell

Why grow your own food in order to be more healthy?

It was nice to be asked to do a talk at the first Community Expo which happened Sat 2nd Sept 2017 at the public park in Stanthorpe next to the swimming pool. Its focus was health and wellbeing, so I decided to talk about the health benefits of growing your own food, as well as some more general healthy eating info. Here is a summary of my talk:

Why grow your own food in order to be more healthy?

Number 1: Know what is in your food.
After checking that your soil is free of contaminants with a soil test, you control how your food is grown and therefore what is in it. You therefore know there are no poisons – herbicides, pesticides, fungicides in it and that there are no GMOs because you do not buy those seeds. Genetic engineering technology used in food is untested and the foreign proteins are likely to be irritating to the digestive tract.

Number 2: Ensure the best nutrition in the food.
You can ensure your soil is alive with biology and therefore that the plants can access minerals and trace elements they need. Food can be eaten soon after being harvested and when things are properly ripe and not green. You can also grow health giving foods that are not available in markets and supermarkets (yacon is one of our favourites). This includes many common weeds – sheep’s sorrel, chickweed, dandelion, dock, lambs quarters, nettle, and so on, as well as thousands of heirloom varieties that have superior taste and therefore nutrients. In the US 20 plants produce 90% of the diet, 9 of these equal 75% of the total diet and rice, corn, and wheat equals 50% of the total. Where is the biodiversity?? (there are 30-80,000+ edibles available)

Number 3: Exercise outdoors.
Bending over, turning compost, and forking the soil all give the body muscles some work to do. Get some sunshine so that your body gets important Vitamin D. No sunscreen. Cover up before burning.

Number 4: Reduce fossil fuel use (or eco-footprint)
Reduce fossil fuel use of the food you eat so that pollution decreases. If you grow some of your own food, less artificial fertilizers are used, less transport needed (typically hundreds or thousands of kms), less storage, less packaging – this benefits the environment we all share – cleaner air and water for everyone!

Number 5: Make new friends
Make friends who also grow their own food. Share seeds, plants, knowledge, successes and failures. Exchange produce with them. Learn from each other and learn together. This is satisfying and beneficial to your soul.

What if you cannot grow some of your own food because you have nowhere to grow?

  1. Basil in a pot loves a window sill as do many other plants. Grow micro-greens (the green sprouts of seeds) inside with a grow light.
  2. Go to a Community Garden and grow food there.
  3. Ask a neighbour or friend if you can grow in their back yard or on their farm.
  4. Happy Pig Farm has offered land to use for reasonable exchange.
  5. Plant in pots or moveable containers if you rent.

Start with something…

What if you cannot grow (and exchange) all your food, but want quality purchased food to make up the difference?

  1. Get to know a local farmer or two. Find out how they grow food – do they grow ecologically or with artificial chemicals and poisons? Buy from them if eco-friendly. Another option is to buy from a food aggregator (eg Symara Farm) who sources from organic farmers
  2. Buy local honey from a beekeeper who uses no poisons
  3. Buy foods certified Organic – Woolworths, Aldi, even IGA has some organic dairy, GoVita has some organic
  4. Join a bulk buying group who buys Organic and supports Australian farmers – this makes Organic much more affordable.
  5. Buy from cafes and restaurants who use organic and local ingredients. Encourage them to use more and more of both.
  6. Buy local at market or shops or farm gate if no other option.
  7. Buy from supermarket, but avoid imported foods/ingredients.

Other healthy eating points:


  • alive foods – ferments, pickles, kefir, natural yogurt, simple cheeses, wine, vinegar, kombucha
  • meat and fish broths
  • breads (see note on grains below)


  • raw milk & cheeses
  • Organic whole grains – must be soaked overnight, sprouted, or fermented to reduce phytic acid that blocks Ca, Mg, Cu, Zn being absorbed in the gut. Grains need fresh milling.
  • high quality dairy
  • animal foods raised naturally without unnecessary poisons or medicines
  • lard for cooking with (pork, beef, poultry)
  • cold pressed extra virgin olive oil – ok for moderate heat cooking, best raw
  • coconut oil – ok for moderate heat cooking, best raw
  • organic superfoods in small amounts:
    • cod liver oil
    • high vitamin butter oil
    • evening primrose
    • borage or blackcurrant oil
    • bee pollen
    • acerola powder (berry)
    • wheat germ oil – vit E
    • azomite mineral powder
    • kelp/seaweed
    • probiotics
    • nutritional yeast processed at low temp
    • bitters
    • amalaki powder (indian fruit)
    • algae/spiralina
    • canned whole coconut milk (not lite)
    • flax seed oil


  • homogenised milk
  • low fat anything
  • pasteurised milk, unless you add lacto bacteria to ferment it
  • aspartame – artificial sweetener
  • packaged breakfast cereals – high pressure and heat extruded grains with high sugar content
  • MSG – neurotoxic
  • HFC – high fructose corn syrup – highly processed
  • alcohol – esp spirits, unpasteurised natural beer ok, organic wine without preservatives ok
  • caffeine
  • pharmaceuticals
  • smoking
  • soft drinks – esp diet
  • flour in all processed foods
  • vegetable oils
  • deep fried anything in veggie oil
  • processed SUGARs
  • canned foods


If you don’t think margarine or some other processed food is bad, put an amount on a saucer and leave outside. How long until eaten by insects, animals, mold, fungi? Compare with a natural food eg butter

These ideas mostly come from 3 books I have read lately: “Gut and Psychology Syndrome”, “Nourishing Traditions”, and “Nutrition and Physical Degeneration” as well as watching the recent docu-series on “The Truth about Cancer” and the start of “GMOs Revealed”.

Originally posted at:

The last day — Living Smart

seed-saving-at-hubSATURDAYS during course time at Randwick Sustainability Hub there’s buzz about the place… the buzz and movement of people doing things.
The last day of the mid-year Living Smart course was no exception… despite the noticeable onset of winter there were people outside talking derailers, tubes and brakes at the bike maintenance workshop, a group in the Permaculture Interpretive Garden extracting seeds from dried pods to save for next season’s harvest and, of course, the Living Smart class.
Living Smart, a product of Murdoch University’s faculty of behavioural psychology that was adopted by the City of Fremantle and the Meeting Place community education centre, is a comprehensive course in collaborative, sustainable living offered over six sessions. Someone once described it as “ … the course that permaculture should have been” because of the depth of knowledge participants gain about its topics and because of its comprehensiveness. Someone else described it as “ …the ‘skilling-up for power-down’ course for the Transition Town movement”.
For the Living Smarties, the focus of the day was water and community. Water consultant John Caley took participants through water systems rain, grey and black, basing his teaching not only on his formal expertise but on installing and monitoring water systems in his home.


Living Smart participants with their Living Smart certificates

Living Smart participants with their Living Smart certificates
Participants brainstormed domestic sources of waste water:

  • kitchen greywater with its contaminant load of fats, blood from meats and meat packaging, salt from cooking — pretty mucky stuff, really, what we might call dark greywater that’s best not for reuse though it could be used in the garden but not on food plants
  • then there’s greywater from the bath/shower and though this can carry contaminants they’re usually diffused, especially in the continuous water stream of the shower
  • there’s the greywater from the bathroom basin with its own diffused contaminants and then there’s that from the laundry.

How to deal with greywater from different sources can be confusing and there were plenty of questions and discussion around it. There are greywater reuse guidelines at the Environment NSW website. John also explained about rainwater tanks and how they work, using the different tanks at the Sustainability Hub as examples.


If there’s one thing that the economic crisis in Greece, Spain and other Mediterranean countries teach us it’s the value of informal, community-based systems to supply human needs. With the decline in economic prospects in those countries has come a rise in community food and trading systems. A component in community resilience in the face of hardship, the study of community systems has long been a module of the Living Smart course.
Annette Loudon is a smart young woman as much at home inside lines of computer code as she is in front of a class. Annette, an online systems designer, produced the software that powers mutual credit system, LETS (local exchange and trading systems) around the country and has been a critical presence in Sydney LETS. You could say she’s a bit of an authority on both the informal and formal enterprises that make up the collaborative economies movement.


Annette took the class through the workings of LETS. Unlike its first phase, LETS, like the rest of the collaborative economy, is now an internet-enabled system, software having replaced the tedious hand maintenance and delays of manual transaction record keeping. It enables the non-monetary trade in goods and services with anyone in the system and not just with those that members obtain goods or services from. This gets around the limitations of barter in which things of comparable value are exchanged when they are needed and available.
It’s not a new system — it was introduced to Australia in the 1990s by Michael Linton, who is credited with developing the idea, and the permaculture design movement. After its initial period, which saw Blue Mountains LETS grow to become the biggest in the world, LETS went into a decline only to be revived in more recent times by people like Annette. This boom followed by a decline and later rebirth in improved form can be common for new ideas. We could regard LETS’ launch and early years as a period of rapid prototyping, the following decline a period of adjustment and the relaunch a reiteration of the idea for contemporary times.


If you’ve ever been to a community swap party then you will know they are a somewhat joyous, festive occasion.
To introduce the idea to the Living Smarties in the course, Annette set up an imitation swap party in the class, with participants taking on the different roles in organising and participating in the event.
There’s been a number of swap parties at Randwick Sustainability Hub, the most recent as part of International Permaculture Day, the next coming up this November as part of National Recycling Week.


What does the carshare company, GoGet; the peer-to-peer carshare scheme DriveMyCar; Rent-a-driveway, the peer-to-peer goods share, Freecycle; the accommodation provider, AirB&B; Rent-a-chook; the peer-to-peer tools and equipment share, Open Shed; the various food and seed swaps around the country; the community supported agriculture initiative, Food Connect; and food rescue organisation OzHarvest, have in common? The answer is that they are small business, social enterprise and community enterprises that collectively make up the collaborative economy.
Based on the values of sharing, trust and mutual benefit, and including the LETS system, the collaborative economy is an internet-enabled system of formal and informal initiatives. One of its most important applications has been in those Mediterranean countries presently afflicted by the economic policies of the European Union and its lackeys. In Greece and Spain communities have organised to supply food cheaply, much of it sourced from regional farmers, and to set up trading systems that look remarkable like LETS.
It is interesting that although the tradition of home gardening must have seen an increase with the economic crisis, it is the collaborative economy systems that have become a focus of community organisation. This is understandable when you realise that home gardening requires a home to garden in and that evictions of people unable to meet their mortgage payments has been a feature of the crisis as has an increase in homelessness. Food gardens take time to plant and cultivate, so if you don’t have a home and your near future is uncertain then you are less likely to plant and maintain a garden.
What we can learn for the southern European economic collapse is the value of collaborative economy systems to community resiliency. This is one reason why it is part of the Living Smart course.


There’s another Living Smart course coming up later in the year, so we’ll see another bunch of people learning how to live sanely and creatively in our world of turmoil and confusion and how to seize its opportunities to do things better.

Councillor's mention of permaculture evidence of its acceptance

THIS WEEK I attended the Think.Eat.Save event on World Environment Day at UNSW and learned that having someone else do your communications is a useful thing.
It was communications about permaculture and it came from the mouth of a Greens councillor at Randwick when she mentioned to the audience in her welcoming speech the Permaculture Interpretive Garden, community gardens, workshops in chookery and other topics as well as other contexts mentioning permaculture, using the word in association with examples a number of times. Even though the words came from the mouth of a politician I don’t think there would have been any adverse perceptions drawn from that.
So this was not a permaculture person highlighting permaculture and it was not an audience of permaculture practitioners, rather a socially and economically mainstream audience including other politicians speaking (an elected Green, a neoliberal conservative [an economic fundamentalist from the NSW government] and a apparchnik from the ALP).

Remarks part of dragonfly approach

When others not associated with your school of thought get up and say positive things about it, I think that’s good. It’s about influence. It’s the sort of thing that you would anticipate when using the four-phase dragonfly (because it has four wings and can manoeuvre easily) approach to building a social movement:

  1. Focus
  2. Grab attention
  3. Engage
  4. Take action.


In this approach, the councillor’s allusions to permaculture would fit within the second step of the process: grab attention.
But there is no intentional, cohesive permaculture move to create a social movement, which suggests that the councillor’s remarks reflect something else going on. This, I believe, is the growing acceptance of permaculture as a type of social education.
I believe we can explain it through this simple calculation: 2013 -1977 = 36. That is, if we take the date of permaculture’s first articulation in Bill Mollison and David Holmgren’s book, Permaculture One, as the start date of the design system — and that’s 1977 — then the 36 years from that date until this year gives us the time period over which permaculture has gone through two iterations during which it has come to influence an increasing number of people.
The first iteration I count as the launch of the design system in that book and its companion volume — Permaculture Two — around a year later, and over the initial years during which the first set of permacultre design courses were held. The second iteration I count starting in the late 1980s and leading to the present time, a period that brought a popularisation of permaculture facilitated by two main things: coverage of permaculture in the mainstream media and in its own media, Permaculture International Journal (publication ceased in June 2000) and the adoption of the Permaculture Design Course as the prime, formal method of propagating the design system.

Becoming acceptable

It was during the latter period, post-2000, that permaculture became acceptable enough for local government to start using the term. This has been due to the work of professionally-trained designers such as planner, Peter Cummin; landscape architect, Steve Batley; educators, Robyn Francis and others; architect, Terry Bail, a number of people working in international development organisations and others working in agriculture.
The Randwick councillor, in her use of the term, was referring to the infrastructure retrofit of the Randwick Community Centre as the Randwick Sustainability Hub (a term used to refer to the schools, community development and sustainability education program wrapped around it) and the associated Permaculture Interpretive Garden, a multiple-use facility at the same time a public park with edible landscape and an educational facility. She also referred to the smaller Barrett House centre used for workshops, as meeting place for sustainability-oriented community groups and as demonstration centre for energy, water, food production and building materials education.
These centres are a scaling-up of permaculture ideas and, being adopted by a local government, are what permaculture practitioners have said over the years that they want to see happen. They are items two, three and four of the above-mentioned dragonfly approach — attract attention, engage with people and institutions, take action through the various education and social programs.
A single recitation of projects at a forum won’t boost permaculture design’s standing alone. But with examples — and there are others — on the ground, politicians, local government staff and permaculture practitioners can do what the councillor did and use them as examples to grab attention for the design system and to engage with people around them.
Story and photo by RUSS GRAYSON
PacificEdge – tactical urbanism