Elmer Sayre is a permie on the island of Mindanao in the Phillipines . His application for WAND (Water, Agroforestry, Nutrition and Development Foundation) secured a $2000 grant to teach two PDCs, and also raise thousands of seedlings with farmers so they can grow timber and food as well as sustain a community seed bank. To support the application, Elmer supplied evidence of previous projects which included Ecosan – a composting toilet, a tree planting project (with accompanying manual), worm composting, vegetable growing and water conservation. Elmer also gave us a long and in-depth talk on WAND’s work and context which began as a routine background-check interview over Zoom. Mindanao has about the same population as Australia, but as its population is 70 times denser the farming strategies are different.
Elmer explains: “The farming situation in our area is small farms that we need to develop into a diverse system utilising local inputs. The government might promote tree planting but the farmers say ‘How can we get income from that?’ The smaller ones want short-term income. So we say, you plant vegetables, plant bananas and in nine months you have a harvest, root crops in seven months you can harvest, green leafy vegetables in two or free weeks. Increasing their economic base. Pigs, free-range chickens, they don’t grow big like commercial ones but they are okay”. The plan is to grow trees for fruit, timber, and seed as well as foods including bananas, sweet potato, and cassava. With the two PDC trainings, the goal is to have an exponential increase in food production as farmers will be using heirloom and open-pollinated varieties. Fertility will come from vermicompost, composted humanure, goat poo, and biochar from rice hulls. Existing practices will be first be documented and photographed, then compared with post- project snapshots for evaluation. Results will be shared with other Permafund projects.
“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.
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: https://retrosuburbia.com/case-studies/abdallah-house-case-study/
By Yvonne Campbell
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?
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.
Go to a Community Garden and grow food there.
Ask a neighbour or friend if you can grow in their back yard or on their farm.
Happy Pig Farm has offered land to use for reasonable exchange.
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?
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
Buy local honey from a beekeeper who uses no poisons
Buy foods certified Organic – Woolworths, Aldi, even IGA has some organic dairy, GoVita has some organic
Join a bulk buying group who buys Organic and supports Australian farmers – this makes Organic much more affordable.
Buy from cafes and restaurants who use organic and local ingredients. Encourage them to use more and more of both.
Buy local at market or shops or farm gate if no other option.
Buy from supermarket, but avoid imported foods/ingredients.
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
borage or blackcurrant oil
acerola powder (berry)
wheat germ oil – vit E
azomite mineral powder
nutritional yeast processed at low temp
amalaki powder (indian fruit)
canned whole coconut milk (not lite)
flax seed oil
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
soft drinks – esp diet
flour in all processed foods
deep fried anything in veggie oil
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”.
SATURDAYS 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.
THE RISE OF COMMUNITY TRADING SYSTEMS
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.
THE JOY OF COMMUNITY SWAPS
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.
THE COLLABORATIVE ECONOMY
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.
UNTIL NEXT TIME
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.