Vale Dan Palmer

Vale Dan Palmer

Dan Palmer, a permaculture pioneer, and creator of Making Permaculture StrongerVEG – Very Edible Gardens Holistic Decision MakingLiving Design Process and co-founding the Permablitz phenomenon, Died this month aged 47. His sudden passing has deeply saddened his friends, readers, and listeners.

He was tireless in his service to, and ‘needling of’ permaculture and its design process. Dan is sadly missed as a fearless questioner, a passionate connector, and strong and fragile a spirit as the living systems he loved. 

Donations of support for his young family can be made at GO FUND ME

If you, or if someone you know is struggling with mental health, don’t wait – get help now. Talk to a friend, reach out and visit to Beyond Blue

Living fences: Using plants to define your boundaries – With Mara Ripani

Living fences: Using plants to define your boundaries – With Mara Ripani

Mara Ripani is Permaculture Australia Professional Member – you can find her at https://villagedreaming.com.au/

Fences are often necessary for privacy, security and the safety of pets and children. As Mara Ripani explains, there are myriad ways to create them with plants, adding extra greenery to our built environment.

With populations increasing and cities and towns growing, we need to take every opportunity to
introduce green into our built environment: ‘rewilding’ our surroundings, even in small ways. A living
fence is a simple and effective way to start. There are many approaches to creating a living fence:
what they all have in common is a thriving explosion of plants!

What is a living fence?
Fences are commonly used for creating privacy (both visual privacy and by preventing access), for
keeping pets and children contained and safe, and simply for marking property boundaries. With a
bit of planning, all of these requirements can be fulfilled with a living fence: one that is made using
plants on their own or by combining plants with an appropriate structure.
Depending on its main purpose, the space available and your aesthetic preference, a living fence can
take the form of closely-planted clumping grasses, a hedge created from shrubs, a line of small trees
or espaliered fruit trees, or a cascade of tendrils and flowers from a climbing vine – to name just a
few possibilities.

Why choose a living fence?
No matter how small your property, if there is room for a fence then there is probably room for a
living fence. Well-kept living fences are extremely beautiful. Evergreen plants provide a verdant wall
to look at all year round. Climbing plants with flowers provide colour, interest and architectural
shapes to admire. A living fence is an extension of your garden, allowing you to layer greenery to
create depth and texture. And if you already have a standard fence, you can breathe life into it with
a climbing plant.

Cooling microclimates
While living fences add a great deal of beauty, they can also help green our cities and create cool
microclimates. Built-up urban areas are prone to the urban heat island effect: dense concentrations
of pavement, buildings and other thermal mass surfaces absorb daytime heat, releasing it again at
night. As a result, ambient temperatures can increase by one to three degrees Celsius. Greening
infrastructure projects large and small, including living fences, can help counter this effect through
the plants’ natural transpiration.

How to choose plants for a living fence
When deciding on the style and plant selection for your living fence, consider its purpose,
maintenance requirements, and how it will fit into your existing garden. Whether you opt for native
or non-native species, always ensure you avoid species considered invasive in your area. Be careful

that your living fence does not impede communal walking paths, and consider traffic sightlines
where necessary – especially for cars exiting driveways.

Grasses
If your main priority is boundary marking, a living fence can be as simple as planting a row of
ornamental grasses. There are many choices: Poa labillardierei (Common Tussock-grass)
Pennisetum alopecuroides (Chinese Fountain grass), Lomandra hystrix (Green Mat-rush,)
Miscanthus sinensis (Chinese Silver grass), Schizachyrium scoparium (Little Bluestem) to name but
a few. Be sure to choose perennial grasses that will live year after year, either evergreen or grasses
that will dry to a sandy or copper colour, marking the changing seasons. Some grasses have spiky
foliage or sharp edges hence consider their appropriateness. Grasses can be cut back in late winter
or left uncut for a few years. When cut back they reappear as vibrant green tufts in spring.

Shrubs
Privacy and safety for children and pets can be achieved with shrubs planted to make hedges
(though note that hedges need dense foliage or supplementing with a wire fence to reliably contain
small pets). There are many shrubs to choose from, and garden nurseries offer plenty of information
on the growing requirements of plants to help you make your selection. Look for plants in the
following genuses Acacia, Westringia, Acmena, Yew, Thuja, and Laurel to name but a mere few.
Search for plants that suit your soil type and climate, and be sure to check the height, width and
growth rate. Fast-growing hedges will establish quickly but need more frequent pruning, watering
and compost. Slower-growing hedges can take years to establish but will then need less
maintenance.
Also consider colour, foliage texture, and whether you’d prefer evergreen or deciduous. An
evergreen shrub will stay green all year round, while deciduous species will change colour before
(usually) dropping their leaves. For example, Berberis thunbergia (Japanese Barberry) is a deciduous
shrub that goes from green to bright red foliage in autumn. For silver foliage try Westringia fruticose
(Native Rosemary(, Teucrium fruticans Tree Garmander), or Pittosporum tenuifolium ‘Silver Sheen’
(Pittosporum Silver Sheen)

Trees
A line of small trees can also be used to create a fence, or to green an existing fence line. A popular
choice is any tree in the conifer family with a tall, narrow form; plant them as close as planting
instructions will allow.
For an ‘edible fence’, you can espalier fruit trees. Espaliering is easy to do, saves space and allows
even small garden owners to access seasonal fruit. Buy bare-rooted trees and plant in winter, and
explore the many instructional videos on different espaliering techniques available online.

Climbing vines
Climbing vines on a structural support can form a fence for privacy and for containing animals and
kids. Choose evergreen plants for year-round screening or deciduous ones for a flash of autumn red
followed by bare branches. You can use metal mesh or tensioned wire on a structural frame or a

wooden fence to support your vines; remember that climbing plants are heavy once established so
make sure the structure is able to support the weight.
There are many fantastic climbing plants to choose from. The evergreen Hardenbergia violacea
(Purple Coral Pea )produces a mass of gorgeous purple pea flowers. Pyrostegia venusta (Golden
Shower) has stunning orange trumpet flowers and climbing tendrils. Trachelospermum jasminoides
(Star Jasmine’s)’ sweet fragrance, Rosa banksiae’s (Lady Banks Rose) rose clusters and the tiny
fairylike leaves of Muehlenbeckia complexa (Maidenhair Vine) are all attractive options. If your home
or rental property has an existing brick or masonry fence then try Parthenocissus tricuspidata(Boston
Ivy) with its burnt red autumn leaves, or Ficus pumila’s (Creeping Fig’s) attractive juvenile leaves.

Before planting
Whether you opt for grasses, shrubs, trees or climbers for your living fence, do your plant research.
How will the plant grow? How will it change over time? What level of maintenance will it need? Will
it drop leaves? Might its root system cause any long-term problems? While it is good to be aware of
these things, however, don’t get overwhelmed: generally the value of a living fence far outweighs its
care needs. And one final piece of advice: if establishing a new fence, it’s a good idea to do a
property boundary search via your relevant state agency to ensure you’re putting the fence in the
right place and not on your neighbour’s property.
Whether you live in a city, a regional town or in the bush, infrastructure like fences is often
necessary. Likewise, rewilding our living environments is important, and easy to do. A living fence is
a great way to combine the two, and the benefits will be experienced by you and all that pass by.

Permafund grant for Treebog workshop in Kenya

Permafund grant for Treebog workshop in Kenya

With the help of a Permafund grant, Kajulu Hills Eco Village in Kenya has trained a number of residents of the Kakuma refugee camp in permaculture skills.Many people are born and grow up in this vast camp that’s been operating for 30 years and has an estimated 16,500 family compounds, each with an average of 20 people.

One of the trainees, Marcelin Munga, is a member of the Farming & Health Education organisation (FHE) which has successfully applied for a Permafund grant to run a 4-day Treebog construction workshop for camp residents.

The Treebog’s innovative compost toilet design encloses the area below an elevated platform with two layers of wire mesh. Straw is stuffed between the two protective mesh layers. This acts as a visual screen for the first year of the Treebog’s use plus allows air flow, soaks up excess urine and stops odours.

Carbon rich organic matter is sprinkled on the above-ground pile after each use. The resultant nutrient seepage fertilises food trees planted intensively around the Treebog, e.g. bananas and papayas that fruit two years after construction.  A rainwater tank collects run off from the roof for a hand washing station next to the Treebog.  

A range of food & timber producing plants are being propagated by FHE to maintain and increase the vegetation around the Treebog.in their compound,

Jay Abrahams of Biologic Design UK, who designed, created and developed the Treebog, hopes that the skills and knowledge required to build one can spread throughout the Kakuma camp and beyond. 

He says “The Treebog is a very good example of permaculture design in action. It shows how by placing the components in mutually beneficial locations the ‘problem’ of the toilet ‘wastes’ becomes the source of the solution: a regenerative, resource-creating, tree-growing, sanitation system.

The Treebog is a simple, Regenerative Sanitation or ‘W.A.S.H.’ System. It provides sanitary compost toilet facilities, where the human waste and handwash water are considered to be a resource to be used – not a problem to be disposed of!”

“The Treebog is not a long drop toilet” he explains, “as there is no pit required underneath. The Treebog is an aerobic compost pile thatsimply sits on the soil surface underneath the platform. The compost pile is surrounded by the enclosed base as well as the trees that are planted around the structure, so the liquids soak into the soil underneath the Treebog and into the root zone. As there is no pit underneath, this helps to protect groundwater from pollution.”

It’s estimated there are around 1,500 Treebogs in use in the UK. Other projects have introduced the technology elsewhere in Africa and in Asia.

Support for projects like this by the Permafund grant program is made possible because of the generous donations received from individuals, families, permaculture groups, businesses and community fund raisers.

Over the past 10 years Permafund grants have benefited 58 environmental, community-building and permaculture education projects in Australia and 15 other countries around the world.

Donations and recurring contributions to Permafund can be made here through the ‘Give’ portal on the Permaculture Australia website. Donations of $2.00 or more are tax deductible in Australia.  All donations and contributions are warmly welcomed.

For more information please contact permafund@permacultureaustralia.org.au

Permaculture trainee runs Treebog workshop in Kenyan camp

Permaculture trainee runs Treebog workshop in Kenyan camp

With the help of a Permafund grant, Kajulu Hills Eco Village in Kenya has trained a number of residents of the Kakuma refugee camp in permaculture skills. Many people are born and grow up in this vast camp that’s been operating for 30 years and has an estimated 16,500 family compounds each with an average of 20 people.

One of the trainees, Marcelin Munga, is a member of the Farming & Health Education organisation (FHE) in partnership with Biologic Design which successfully applied for a Permafund grant to run a 4-day Treebog construction workshop for camp residents.

The Treebog’s innovative compost toilet design encloses the area below an elevated platform with two layers of wire mesh. Straw is stuffed between the two protective mesh layers to act as a visual screen for the first year’s use plus to allow airflow, soak up excess urine and stop odours. Carbon-rich organic matter is sprinkled on the above-ground pile after each use. The resultant nutrient seepage fertilises food trees planted intensively around the Treebog, e.g. bananas and papayas that fruit two years after construction. A rainwater tank collects runoff from the roof for a hand washing station next to the Treebog.  

Jay Abrahams of Biologic Design UK, who designed, created, and developed the Treebog, hopes that the skills and knowledge required to build one can spread throughout the Kakuma camp and beyond. 

He says “The Treebog is a very good example of permaculture design in action. It shows how by placing the components in mutually beneficial locations the “problem’ of the toilet wastes, becomes the source of the solution: a regenerative, resource creating, tree-growing, sanitation system. The Treebog is a simple, Regenerative Sanitation or ‘W.A.S.H.’ System. It provides sanitary compost toilet facilities, where the human waste and handwash water are considered to be a resource to be used – not a problem to be disposed of!”

“The Treebog is not a long drop toilet” he explains, “as there is no pit required underneath. The Treebog is an aerobic compost pile that simply sits on the soil surface underneath the platform. The compost pile is surrounded by the enclosed base as well as the trees that are planted around the structure, so the liquids soak into the soil underneath the Treebog and into the root zone. As there is no pit underneath, this helps to protect groundwater from pollution.”

It’s estimated there are around 1,500 Treebogs in use in the UK. Other projects have introduced the technology elsewhere in Africa and in Asia.

Support for projects like this by the Permafund grant program is made possible because of the generous donations received from individuals, families, permaculture groups, businesses, and community fundraisers.

Over the past 10 years, Permafund grants have benefited 58 environmental, community-building, and permaculture education projects in Australia and 15 other countries around the world.

Donations and recurring contributions to Permafund can be made  here  through the ‘Give’ portal on the Permaculture Australia website. Donations of $2.00 or more are tax-deductible in Australia. All donations and contributions are warmly welcomed.

For more information please contact permafund@permacultureaustralia.org.au

Farming & Health Education  https://farmhe.org/

Biologic Design  https://www.biologicdesign.co.uk/

Donate link for Permafund  https://permacultureaustralia.org.au/permafund/

Introducing the 2022/23 Board of Directors

Introducing the 2022/23 Board of Directors

The 2022 Permaculture Australia Annual General Meeting was held on the 23rd April at Research, Victoria and online. 

Congratulations to the following Board of Directors who have been appointed for 2022/2023:

  • Toad Dell, Queensland
  • Debbi Long, Victoria
  • John McKenzie, Victoria
  • Donna Morawiak, Queensland
  • Jed Walker, New South Wales

Huge thankyou to the outgoing Directors, Wendy Marchment, Greg Rodwell and Sophie Thompson. Big thank you also to Virginia and Stephen Solomon for hosting the AGM at their residence. It was a gorgeous Autumn day which was perfect for a pot-luck lunch outside post the AGM followed by a tour of the house with a Retrosuburbia perspective. The property is one of the Retrosuburbia case studies and is undergoing further changes to ease the load post retirement from paid work. 

Special thanks and acknowledgement was given to Wendy Marchment with a bouquet of flowers, on her work as Secretary over the past four years. In particular, on getting PA’s compliance and governance systems up-to-date, having established many templates and processes including the Directors’ induction checklists which will make the transition easier and smoother for incoming Boards. 

Notice of 2022 Annual General Meeting

Notice of 2022 Annual General Meeting

Notice to members of the Annual General Meeting (AGM) of Permaculture International Limited (trading as Permaculture Australia) to be held:

  • Saturday 23rd April 2022, 11.00am AEST at 103 Thomson Crescent, Research, VIC or via Zoom (see instructions in Agenda)

The meeting will cover AGM business as per the following Agenda.

(more…)
Permaculture Project public consultation

Permaculture Project public consultation

Dear colleagues and friends

Permaculture vocational training is currently under review and the Public Consultation phase is open now until March 28th.

All permies are encouraged to participate, even in a small way. Any engagement, any comments or questions are welcome and will be acted upon.

Go to the project page or visit the Skills Impact Website and follow the prompts to the Permaculture, Organic Farming and Composting project. Permaculture is completely separate from the other two subjects, but the project is occurring in the same phase of a wider project.

If you have missed the workshops and would like to discuss it or get some direction from the project manager, please don’t hesitate to contact Skills Impact direct by phone or email. The Project Team (Project Manager, Writer and Subject Matter Expert committee) are very keen to hear from all permies.

This consultation has far-reaching effects on the entire permaculture sector and your input will make all the difference to the outcome. Please take the time to visit the pages and post your comments.

Thank you for your time

The board, staff and volunteers of Permaculture Australia

Permafund Long Table Lunch

Permafund Long Table Lunch

El Nina has well and truly settled in, the plains of Canberra a vividly green, dams are full and rivers a rushing downstream to reach the coast. Keyline properties will be fully recharged and swale designs are being tested. We are seeing extreme weather events not only here in Australia, but all around the world.

But, with 10 years of Permafund Australia activity, there’s lots to celebrate. Why don’t you join us, the Permafund Team, and host a long table lunch under the lush foliage of your garden? 

Now more than ever, let’s come together and feast on the abundance your work has provided. Let us think about our growing global community of people, the less fortunate and cook or prepare something from a culture other than your own. Use and value diversity.

Put on a feast, whether it’s a Kenyan or Indonesian, Nepalese or Indian inspired night, that is up to you, share the love through food. Ask people for a donation, whatever they can afford, and let us continue the great work of Permaculture direct action globally.

Register your event with permafund@permacultureaustralia.org.au for more information and recipe ideas. 

Donations to Permafund are shared with grateful recipients who put their grants to work in a wide variety of creative environmental and community building projects around the world . All donations are warmly welcomed. Donate here.

Permafund team

Permafund aids Community Regeneration

Permafund aids Community Regeneration

Permaculture for Sustainable Communities in Kenya has provided this report after receiving a Permafund grant of $2,000 to promote local food that is more climate-friendly and less energy-consuming to improve food security and support a vibrant, resilient community.

The project was implemented in the Matungu District in Western Kenya for period of a year. It was to help the marginalised communities to grow their own healthy food during the COVID-19 crisis as a powerful way to reclaim communities and change the dynamics so that people would have wealth and power to combat hunger and the COVID-19 pandemic.

The community was able to invest in new tools for the project

As background,  Permaculture for Sustainable Communities reports that it’s estimated that 42% of Kenya’s GDP is derived from natural resource related sectors such as agriculture and forestry. These sectors are highly sensitive to climate change, a fact that makes rural based economies highly vulnerable. In the agriculture sector for example, smallholder farmers are the backbone of the economy, generating about 70% of their agricultural production while also being the custodians of precious agro-ecosystems.   Conversely, land, water resource base and populations whose livelihoods and food security are dependent on such resources have been subjected to the vagaries of land degradation, deforestation and the declining productivity of croplands. This has undermined the sustainability of food systems and productivity of natural landscapes.

To address these challenges, the Permaculture for Sustainable Communities project focuses on the development of regenerative farming to rebuild healthy community gardens as a nature-based solution for addressing ecosystem degradation and build climate change resilience.

Training including women and girls

It is therefore a practical intervention that serves as an entry point adaptation strategy to improve the productivity, efficiency, profitability and fairness of production from the landscape while also establishing an approach that builds rural land restoration. In essence, the ecosystem-based adaptation approach will ultimately reduce environmental impact of production while addressing food insecurity. To ensure that the natural environment is conserved, enhanced and managed for the benefit of present and future generations, the project focuses on building healthy soils.

All ages are involved in demonstrations

The long-term goal of developing sustainable food systems is considered a high priority for Permaculture for Sustainable Communities.

Activities carried out included the training of farmers in permaculture practices and skills, the distribution of farm seeds and tools plus monitoring the project and evaluation of the outcomes.

Working with the landscape to capture water in the soil

Project achievements: Through the intensive training of 50 farmers in organic farming, synthetic fertilisers are now not used in their farms. Building and maintaining a rich, living soil through the addition of organic matter is a priority for the farmers as the solution for sustainable healthy soil for healthy food production. 

Hand watering new planting

The community’s farmers have knowledge in planting and then tilling in cover crops, which help protect the soil from erosion off-season and provides additional organic matter. They have learned about non- tilling and digging in of nitrogen-fixing cover crops, such as mucana or thithony whihc also adds nitrogen to the soil. Cover crops are commonly planted before or after the cash crop season or in conjunction with crop rotation and can also be planted between the rows of some crops, such as tree fruits.

Maize established in prepared field

The farmers have been in trained in pest control. They can make organic pesticides that are derived from naturally occurring sources. These include living organisms such as the bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis, which is used to control caterpillar pests, or plant derivatives such as neem, alvora and peepe leaves. 

Organic pest control integrates biological, cultural, and genetic controls to minimise pest damage. Biological control utilises the natural enemies of pests, such as predatory insects (e.g., ladybugs) or parasitoids (e.g. certain wasps) to attack insect pests. Pest cycles can be disrupted with cultural controls with crop rotation the most widely used. 

When local varieties of crops disappear, this can compromise food sovereignty and the ability of a community to access culturally appropriate food at a fair price. The region’s farmers are turning to traditional planting of numerous crop varieties that are resistant to specific pests and are diseases to restore food sovereignty in the community.

Abundant harvest ahead

Finally, because of a permaculture practices and knowledge the farmers have harvested plentiful green vegetables for home consumption. Two farmers have established herb gardens. Beans, maize, soya beans and potatoes have been harvested, making the region a food security hub.

Home gardens for vegetables and herbs

The project has benefited 50 farmers directly and benefit 350 directly.

From the project outcomes lessons have been learned.

There are multiple benefits from teaching farmers about building healthy soil by making organic fertiliser, including green manures, designing and adding swales into gardens to increase soil water content, growing native seeds, improving soil pH to benefit plant growth, increasing the availability of P and K and increasing microbial activity.

Gathering up the harvest
Preparing for harvest collection

Learning together with community members has led to improved problem solving and more effective work strategies.

Collecting the harvested maize

Through the supply of seeds and farm tools farmers worked harder to rebuild acidic gardens into organic food producing farm systems that have produced food security for many beneficiaries.

Working in groups helped many farmers learn how to establish herb gardens both for human medicine and for insect repellent.

The community working together helped permaculture knowledge reach more people in regions where many need this education.

The harvest ready for distribution

Challenges.

Long droughts are making certain crops to fail.

More encouragement needed for local climate- resistant crops to be grown.

Support needed for the community to adapt to setting up small home gardens irrigated by water harvesting. A shortage of tanks to capture water from rooftops is an issue.

The shortage of farm seeds and tools to equip more farmers is a problem. For example in one village you may find that only one home has a wheelbarrow.

A wheelbarrows is a valued asset

There is a high demand among farmers for training in permaculture practices and the establishment of working farm models. Financial support is needed to replicate the project in order to reach more people.

Donations to Permafund are supporting community organisations like Permaculture for Sustainable Communities around the world.  Contributions of $2.00 of more are tax deductible in Australia and can be made here.

Seed saving for future harvests
TedxPermaQueer – Cultural Solutions to Climate Change

TedxPermaQueer – Cultural Solutions to Climate Change

Tackling our ongoing climate crisis means adjusting the behaviours, attitudes and relationships we hold with the environment and with each other. It’s not just tech solutions we require but deep cultural shifts. It won’t be a single action but the collection of many small and sweeping changes that sets us up for success or failure and culture is the bedrock of behaviour.

We’ll be exploring through a variety of speakers how shifting culture from mainstream society, whether ancient or modern, can help change our current climate path. With special emphasis on first nations ways of knowing and being, drawing from lands managed in sustainable and regenerative ways prior and post colonisation, we will explore what a new space of cultural emergence might look like. An emergence that is appropriate, equitable and listens to the needs of the land and the people.

  • What does it mean to be a custodial species in our environment?
  • What is culture? what is good culture and what does it mean to reclaim our cultural practices?
  • How can we contribute to meaningful cultural emergence as ethical and responsible consumers?

These are a few of the questions we’ll be exploring in depths over the three days of this seminar, with many more exploring the themes of right relating, impacts of colonisation, moving beyond helplessness, cross-cultural dialogue and breaking the binaries we live within.

All profits raised from this event is going towards a specific land back fund for First Nations Aboriginal people. 

For more information:

The event details can be found here.

Permaqueer are Professional members of Permaculture Australia, the national permaculture member organisation. Find out more including how to join here.