RED & BLUE 2021 Online – Permaculture inspired events focused on preparing for transition and collapse

RED & BLUE 2021 Online – Permaculture inspired events focused on preparing for transition and collapse

Red & Blue is back for 2021 as an online event. We have a great line up with over ten workshops starting with the opening session by David Holmgren discussing Retrosuburbia. You can sign up for workshops for free or buy an all session ticket to help support the event. .

Single Sessions: FREE
Full event tickets: $20-$40

Theory and Design
Retrosuburban resilience – David Holmgren

Food growing and Living Systems
​DIY Composting toilets – Ben Telford

Social Permaculture
​Holistic Activism – a new way forward – Mark Allan
Changing the System! – Theo Kitchener

​Crafts and Skills
​Animal based resources – Ei Yang
Building with Hemp and Light Earth – Kirstie Wulf
Lessons from 500 homes – insights into home energy and comfort – Ricahrd Keech

Health and Healing
Going off!! Fermenting medicines anywhere, anytime – Dean O’Callaghan

With more workshops still to be announced.

Home Grown Retreat: An Introduction to Permaculture

Home Grown Retreat: An Introduction to Permaculture

A delicious weekend in the country where you will learn the skills you need to easily begin growing your own edible garden at home.​

Get your hands in the dirt, breathe in fresh country air, enjoy farm-to-table organic dining and relax in luxury accomodation amongst the rolling hills of the beautiful Southern Highlands.

Explore a more sustainable and regenerative way of life with Farmer Pete and local Permaculture guru, Jill Cockram. Learn about gut health with nutritionist Shannon Rosie and how to pickle, preserve and ferment with Chef Eilish.

Learn permaculture with David Holmgren

Learn permaculture with David Holmgren

A PDC can be a life changing experience. Join us in the unique environment of the Rocklyn Ashram and be taught by a mix of experienced and enthusiastic permaculture tutors including David Holmgren and Beck Lowe. This is a fully residential, fully immersive, fully catered course running over 15 days with a short break in the middle.
Cost: Camping $2,600, shared dorm room $2,700, private accommodation $3,650. Early Bird until 30 Nov.

2020 Permaculture Design Course @ Rocklyn Ashram

Blogger interprets permaculture's principles as rules for living

Like the food she writes about in her Land and Ladle blog, Erin Meyer has produced a fresh and nourishing interpretation of permaculture’s principles of design.
These are the principles expounded in David Holmgren’s 2002 book, Permaculture — principles and pathways beyond sustainability. I mention this because, for many, David’s principles are all the principles there are. Somewhat neglected are the principles developed by the other co-founder of the permaculture design system, Bill Mollison, quite some time before David’s.

Systems soft and hard

As expressed in David’s book and by permaculture educators and practitioners, his principles are about the design of infrastructure, about building, the design of land-based systems such as farms and resource management. These are permaculture’s ‘hard systems’, systems that have a physical presence.
Yet, they are more than that because the principles are about how we think about the design and building of those things, those physical elements in the landscape. That ‘thinking about’ design and construction makes the principles also a ‘soft system’, something that is cognitive, conceptual, a product of thought, logical reasoning, deduction and making those important mental connections between things.

The principles of permaculture design are commonly applied to the design of the physical infrastructure of productive systems. Photo: Home garden around the fenceline of a small urban lot in New Plymouth, Aotearoa-New Zealand.

Rules for living

Erin Meyer’s interpretation of David’s principles of design is a soft systems approach too, though in a different way to David’s. As “rules for living” her interpretation applies the principles to personal life, to the psychology of individuals. It is about personal practices and ways of thinking. It is about about our personal psychology.
This is less a new element in what we have come to know as ‘social permaculture’ than a revival of a concept whose presence seems to have declined in permaculture — the ‘Zone Zero’. Envisioned as an additional element to permaculture’s zoned landuse system which traditionally stipulates five zones for different landuses according to distance from the dwelling and availability of resources, Zone Zero was variously defined as the behaviours and practices of people living in a home that is the centre of a permaculture design — Zone One — and as the relationships between them and how they manage the home. It is perhaps Australian permaculture educator/designer, Cecelia Macauley, who is the leading exponent of this idea with her application of permaculture principles in the personal domestic space.

Into the psychological space

In her blog in Medium, Erin goes through each of the principles and suggests a personal action for applying each.
One I found affinity with was her take on the principle of ‘small and slow solutions’. I have written elsewhere that this is an appropriate approach in many circumstances but could be too-little-too-late for others, that sometimes we need big and rapid solutions rather than small and slow. Erin has come to the same conclusion, saying that some of the big challenges we face require the big and rapid response. Examples are ameliorating climate change, finding solutions to the loss of livelihoods to workplace automation, urbanisation.
There is a saying in the tech world that when a technology is used for things it was not designed for, then it is successful. We could apply that to Erin’s interpretation of David’s principles of design to the psychological space of individuals. This repurposes and enlarges the principles, taking them into territory if not completely new, then territory too seldom visited.

Erin writes in the Land and Ladle blog on Medium. Medium is where you will find insightful, critical and analytical writing on a range of topics including the permaculture design system.



Advanced Permaculture Planning and Design Process 2017 – Part One: How it came about

Story, photos and video by PA member, Dan Palmer, June 2017

This post commences a little intermission from the current inquiry. For, while it is fresh, I’ll pen a report of the four-day Advanced Permaculture Planning and Design Process workshop David Holmgren and I recently co-presented. I’ll cover the experience with a post for each of six parts: how it came about, the four days of preparation directly before, and then each of the 1, 2, 3, 4 days of the event itself.
First though, if you’ve not the time or interest to read the full report,1 here’s a short clip of David and I sharing some post-course reflections:

Part One: How it Came to Pass

Not long after Making Permaculture Stronger started, I sent a draft version of this previous post to David, hoping for his feedback. To my delight, a lively email conversation ensued, excerpts of which were posted here. Details aside, I was grateful for David’s interest and participation in a conversation following and building on my earlier claim that design process is a problematically weak link in permaculture.2
During the decade or so in which David grew from acquaintance then teacher into the mentor, senior colleague, and friend he is today, we had never really discussed permaculture design process. I’d been fortunate enough to observeDavid in process on several rural properties over the years, where I got to read him reading landscape, but we hadn’t much talked about what was going on.
After that email conversation, however, things had shifted. The topic was on both of our radars as a shared interest. Though we enjoyed several face-to-face chats, which for me put some rather deep scratches in the surface of the topic, I was left with the feeling of wanting to break right through the surface, to dive in deep, and see what we found. Of wanting Making Permaculture Stronger to further benefit from David’s 40 years of grounded experience and deep thinking about permaculture design.3
Now if anyone had approached me at this point and said “well why don’t you just ask David whether he’d be up for an eight-day full-time intensive discussion going deep into all this stuff?” I would have laughed. Something like that simply wouldn’t have occurred to me as being within the realms of possibility. David leads a full life and I knew was busy working on getting his latest book project across the line, re-tweaking an upcoming re-release of his permaculture principles, co-managing Melliodora, and so on and so forth. I was more than grateful for the shorter conversations we were able to have, and hoped/trusted our conversation would continue to evolve slowly and opportunistically in small increments over the coming years.
You can imagine, therefore, how low my jaw dropped when in late September 2016, David asked whether I’d be interested in co-facilitating a four-day “advanced permaculture principle and planning” workshop during April of 2017.4

Though I tried to play it cool – “yeah thanks for the thought, let me think about it” sort of thing, my decision to accept the invitation took about three seconds. I was excited at the prospect of an opportunity to co-evolve some of this stuff together, knowing from past experience that co-teaching is about as good as such opportunities get.
I learned after the event that David, though excited, was also somewhat nervous about how it might play out. As he put it in the post-event video I shared above:

I thought going into it the uncertainties of unpacking so many things that I’ve been uncertain about in permaculture design, and the first time directly collaborating on something like this with you, and building on all the stuff you’ve been doing on the making permaculture stronger blog, I was really excited but nervous about how it was going to work and whether we were going to get into runaway, abstract, philosophical discussions that would leave the students, even the more advanced ones, struggling.

From my end, I was telling myself not to set my expectations for the course toohigh. I know from experience that such events often don’t turn out quite as magnificent as the picture my mind tends to paint in the lead up. I was also conscious that we had no idea who would show up, and how it would work to be exploring the depths of permaculture design process with a bunch of, well, goodness knows who. I also really wasn’t sure to what extent David’s and my own design process understandings would actually gel or complement each other. Finally, I knew David had a relatively well-rehearsed and refined program from his past advanced principles and reading landscape workshops and I half-expected I would end up simply sort of tacking on some of my stuff around that.
So much for expectations!
In the next post I’ll go through the process of preparing for the event.


  1. Which at well over 10,000 words I kind of got a bit carried away with!
  2. The way I would currently describe this weak link is as follows: The more I look, the more I find a stunningly low correspondence between what the available permaculture literature says should be true of any authentic permaculture design process, and what actually is true when a design process deeply resonates with permaculture ethics and principles to successfully generate deeply adapted systems. I am not the first to make this observation – as an example see this article from the German Institute for Participatory Design.
  3. I assume it goes without saying that David’s experience with permaculture includes the experience of co-originating it alongside Bill Mollison.
  4. The way this all came about was that David had been approached by Dr Keri Chiveralls about running a version of the advanced courses he’d run previously as part of the fledgling graduate diploma in permaculture being offered through Central Queensland University.

Feature image: Russ Grayson