Thursday, 19 March 2015

My 1st month at Permaculture Research Institute Maungaraeeda, Sunshine Coast, Australia

I have been traveling around the world for the last 5 years working on permaculture projects and communities in several countries. I shared my nomadic journey in 2 articles which you can see here and here . I decided to settle down for a while and bring my knowledge and experience in managing permaculture systems to the next step.

I got the chance to participate in the Practical Permaculture Diploma offered by the Permaculture Research Institute Sunshine Coast here in Australia on a scholarship basis. The practical approach , being able to learn practically valuable self-reliance and life skills attracted plus the accessibility me to join this program. 

As David Holmgren beautifully said 20 years ago and which I also deeply resonate with : ¨Permaculture, in its basic principles and its various forms of practical expression, has much to offer in personal and societal transcendence of addictive consumerism and its replacement with a creative abundance.¨ I felt motivated to  make a change, to really be able to re-gain practical skills that have been lost along to way during my life time in a comfort consumer society.

Let me explain to you here a little bit of what I have learned and experienced so far on site in just over 1 month working practically at PRI Sunshine Coast. I hope it helps people to get a better understanding what it takes to manage and run permaculture systems (which ultimately is dealing with evolving living complexity as well as simplicity ). Another outcome would be to inspire you to join one of the future practical programs offered and get a step closer to the new regenerative culture we aim to create together !

We are located on the beautiful Sunshine Coast near a village called Kin Kin in a wonderful subtropical climate. PRI Sunshine Coast is 12ha in size and run by Tom & Zaia Kendall. Once I arrived I immediately started to appreciate and enjoy the natural beauty of this area and all the trees and forests plus amazing bird concerts all around us. After having spend lots of time in the more troubled ecosystems of the world I really appreciate spending time in surroundings like this.

                               View from the wonderful pond with forest view

                                          Sunrise at PRI Sunshine Coast

I first started to learn and work here on site with Choko, Anna and Toffee, our beautiful lady cows starting at 6am feeding them organic Copra (a residue of the coconut oil pressing process) and a spoon of minerals. As some of the pastures are not yet established to its fullest potential, milking Choko while playing nice calming classical music to her and after checking all of the 3 beauties for ticks.

Afterwards we lead them into one of the 25 grazing cells that are rotationally grazed here on site, for 2-3 days each at a time. They can have some good times out there eating lots of grass, dropping their manure and pee plus trampling down weeds and disturbing the soil surface. This then makes it easier for us the sow in a seed mixture with our wanted pasture plants: a mix of running grasses, clumping grasses and legumes. This system of cow grazing management has been inspired by Holistic Planned Grazing or Rotational Grazing and it's really exiting to get the chance to work and experiment with this type of management.

In the evening we again go out to bring them back into their secure, rain protected night time shed. We routinely check for ticks, feed them plus milk Choko once again. The milk will be used to make cream, butter, yogurt and cheese which I also learned to make in my first week here. I felt very empowered and motivated to be able to milk Choko after just 2 weeks of learning and feel confident to lead them in and out of their grazing cells.

                                          The beautiful ladies in the grazing cell

The manure that we collect in the morning from the cows goes into our Bio-Digester that supplies about 1/3 of the gas for the cooking needs of 9 people (Tom & Zaia, Volunteers & Students) currently living on site. The Biogas Sludge that comes out at the end of the process of extracting gas is used to make beautiful high quality compost that we use in our gardens to grow vegetables. I really appreciate and value seeing such closed loop systems functioning in action.

                                               Picture of the composted biogas sludge turned into dark soil

Usually after the morning animal routine is finished around 7.30am we have a delicious breakfast made with love and no wheat or other grains by Zaia. It is always a pleasure to have such a delightful and energetic start to the day. You can find some of her recipes here.

After breakfast we usually start our day with some of the rotational community tasks like washing dishes, sweeping the community space, cooking or emptying the compost toilet. Once those task are finished we transition into the farm related tasks to be accomplished during each week.

Personally I have learned by being in many different communities and projects, that to keep a Permaculture Farm, Community or Learning Centre running successfully it works well to involve everybody staying on site in rotational community tasks. This fosters a sense of involvement,  community spirit & empowers people to take care of themselves and others and learn to be involved in all parts of the process going on in a project.

Management and clear communication is a key factor in keeping things flowing smoothly. Here on site, we have a rota set up with the tasks clearly outlined and at the start of each week we have a quick gathering and establish daily and weekly goals and tasks to be accomplished.

Bigger projects on the property include getting timber from a neighbouring property to make fence posts, planting out lots of new vegetable seedlings in the vegetable gardens plus, as rainfall is exceeding evaporation, lots of chop and drop in the food forest and swale systems.

                                         Picture of the logs for fence posts

What I have learned in the last weeks of doing lots of chop & drop in the Zone 2 Food forest and Zone 3 Swale systems is really quiet amazing and crucial to be aware of. We have lots of legume support species like Pigeon Pea (which needs pollarding) and Crotalaria, Cassia, Senna (which needs coppacing, like Tulsi and Mugwort). This then cycles the nitrogen of the legume species and also the biomass back into the soil and concentrates the energy in the form of mulch around our valuable fruit or nut trees to give them a good boost for the next season ahead.

one part of the Food forest Chopped & Dropped 

Also we have a good look around to find any grass that has made its way into the system. As we want to have fungal dominated soil in our food forest system, we really want to get the grasses out! Next thing to be aware of is any climbing legume vines that are taking over or strangling our valuable fruit or nut trees or even our support species. We cut them back a bit and use the biomass as mulch on the ground, we really don't want to export any of the nutrients created in these systems so we drop the biomass on spot!

Another job to be done along the way and to give multiple functions to our visits in the food forest system is to have a look at our trees if there is any pruning needed. This may include new suckers coming up under the graft or branches growing into the wrong directions.

A useful tip, we  mark the valuable species with a pink tape to make them more easily visible in the system. This also helps let new people coming in know not to chop down valuable trees or plants. Our tools have pink spray or tape on them to make them visible in these human created jungles in case they drop on the ground!

Sometimes as a newcomer in those systems it feels like everything kind of looks the same, just green and brown everywhere but after Tom pointed out to us a couple of species it becomes totally different. You start to see a pattern in the food forest system, a stacked multilayer diversity of plants, all fulfilling a function and supporting the system towards maximum stability and productivity. A lovely landscape to work with and satisfying to spend time in, it was one of my favorite jobs this month!

We have started to maintain a Zone 3 Swale system on a slope of the property, getting the grasses out and re-mulching the entire swale with chipped biomass mulch. We created weed barriers with big logs that we cut on site. We focused also on promoting more of the pinto peanut, our preferred ground cover in those systems which we hope will cover all the swales' surfaces soon.We also plan to put sawdust in the swale ditch to prevent weeds and encourage the pinto peanut more in there.

                                             the edge of the swale

It feels so exiting and motivating for me to be having the chance to observe how these systems are going to evolve and develop over the next couple of months.

Also we went to two local Permaculture group meetings of Permaculture Noosa and Permaculture Gympie. I hope to continue being part of these meetings regularly as I find it important to relocalize and be connected to a local network of permaculture practitioners sharing their experiences.
Unfortunately the Permaculture Noosa meeting got canceled as almost no people came. We had big rains that day and Cyclone Marcia was moving trough the country. We had a rain event of 138ml in one day and we got the chance to see the Dam and Swale systems on the property in action.

                                               130m long  full swale

It was so great and powerful to see the huge swales and dam filling up, catching and storing energy and slowly infiltrating the precious resources water into the landscape. After such a big rain event we really could observe here on site how the earthworks benefit the landscape, hold water, prevent run-off and overall benefit the system in holding, spreading and sinking nutrients and moisture into the soil.

In the vegetable garden we had lots of work to do, which kept Khadija (the Certificate student) and all the volunteers very busy. We were weeding, re-shaping bed edges, re fertilizing (with our composted biogas sludge) and mulching followed by planting out many new vegetable babies.We are looking forward to harvest some of the crops ready for eating soon!

                                          Keyhole garden bed before re-mulching

We also went for an amazing trip up to Noosa Heads together ,as the 8 week practical training was at its half time period. Tom & Zaia decided to surprise us with having a barbecue and chocolate cake at the beach and on the way we visited a consultation site which Tom and the students have been working on for a couple of days to installed a swale system for a client. What a beautiful day and good opportunity to connect to each other outside of the farm and working routine.


Tom explaining the swale and spillway

Overall I fell like I have learned so much already in this first couple of weeks here at PRI Sunshine Coast, met great people and enjoyed great food and environment here on site. I feel grateful for having this opportunity and will keep all of you posted how my learning and practical work here continues over the next couple of months as I plan on writing an update every 3 month from now onwards. This is just the start of an exiting practical learning phase and much hard work ahead.......

                                                  Trip to Noosa Heads

See more here at my blog and you tube channel :

and more infos about PRI Sunshine Coast:

PRI Sunshine Coast website :

Friday, 13 March 2015

Reflections on a Turning World - a new book by Kate Curtis

An Earth-lovers collection of travel writing, poetry, reflections and inspirational prose with full colour photographic images. Reflections on a Turning World, takes us on a journey from gratitude and honouring our pain for the world, to seeing with new eyes and going forth. 
Written over 10 years of travels to many different places, it contains deep insights about our connection to nature, to each other and the world we move in, inspires deep questioning, and encourages the reader to see the world with new eyes.

About the author:
Deep ecologist, writer and lover of nature, Kate has spent most of her adult life traveling and working in many different countries. Her writing is sensitive and highly descriptive and invites readers to open their senses to another place, another world and another way of seeing. She is currently living and working at Gaia Ashram in northern Thailand.

see here:

Friday, 6 March 2015

Allan Savory - Reversing Global Warming while Meeting Human Needs

Allan Savory's presentation on January 25, 2013, about how Holistic Management restores grasslands from land that's degraded to desert. This innovative, natural, and simple idea mimics Nature by using careful management of livestock to stimulate the regrowth of grasses, animals, and puts large amount of greenhouse gases (GHG's) from the air into the soil. The event was sponsored by the Center for International Environment and Resource Policy (CIERP) at the Fletcher School at Tufts University and Planet-TECH Associates, a consultancy focusing on innovations for a regenerative future. Videography provided by Local Flavor LLC.

Holistic Management by Allan Savory

On September 10th and 11th,2014; SDSU and the SD Grassland Coalition hosted Allan Savory for two days of grassland related teaching, seminars, and a field day. Through the course of the seminar Savory shared his views on human history and the use of what he deemed three basic historical human tools: technology, fire, and environmental ‘rest’; and how each has influenced modern day thinking.

Comments by Allan Savory, Zimbabwean Biologist

Peter Bane - How I'm Preparing for the Local Future: Permaculture

Educator Peter Bane is preparing for the local future, beyond the global economy and after peak oil. Bane's talk is the story of the history of permaculture, and how he has used permaculture methods to move towards a self-sustaining homestead using free or low-cost techniques.

Peter Bane is the publisher of Permaculture Activist Magazine for 20 years. He is a garden farmer in Bloomington, Indiana. He teaches permaculture design for Indiana University. He has a bachelors from University in Illinois in political design. Bane has a diplomna in permaculture design from the British Academy of Permculture design. He served on the peak oil task force for the City of Bloomington, Indiana, which was adopted in 2009 December. Bane is currently working on a permaculture handbook for people who live in the suburbs.

In this talk, Bane describes, in his own words, how he is moving beyond the money economy, to providing his essential needs from his homestead, and how he is utilizing the principles of permaculture.

This talk immediately followed Nicole Foss's talk on how she prepared her family for peak oil and economic uncertainty.

Recorded at the International Conference on Sustainability: Energy, Economy, Environment 2010 hosted by Local Future and directed by Aaron Wissner.

Darren J Doherty on Regrarianism

Power point talk by Darren J Doherty about Regrarianism  repopulating, rehydrating, and regenerating rural america. at M.U.M. university November, 30 2012

Darren Doherty - Regrarianism: Re-Booting Agriculture for the Next 10,000 Years

One of the world’s most brilliant and accomplished Permaculture designers describes how “Regrarianism” can reverse the destruction and usher in a new regenerative future for our food systems and communities.

This speech was given at the 2013 Bioneers National Conference.

Since 1990, Bioneers has acted as a fertile hub of social and scientific innovators with practical and visionary solutions for the world's most pressing environmental and social challenges. 

To experience talks like this, please join us at the Bioneers National Conference each October, and regional Bioneers Resilient Community Network gatherings held nationwide throughout the year.

Going Local with David Holmgren - Keynote

Healthy food systems are the foundation for healthy lives, communities, economies and ecosystems. In order to build a future for Melbourne in which we can all thrive, we need a food system that is sustainable, resilient and equitable.

Join world-leading environmental designer, ecological educator and writer, David Holmgren, and farmers, retailers, restauranteurs, growers and community advocates from around Melbourne and across Victoria, coming together to explore how we can build a better food system by 'going local'.

At Sustainable & Fair Food: Going Local, you'll hear why building a local food economy is good for the environment, farmers, community, your weekly food bill and our future. You'll get to share what 'going local' means for you, why you think it's important, and how City of Melbourne might help us all to 'go local'. You'll also get to cocreate a vision for City of Melbourne about what 'going locall' might look like for producers, retailers, restauranteurs, community and government in and around Melbourne.

This is an opportunity to help shape Melbourne's future.

Paul Taylor - Bio vital Composting

Permaculture Composting allows us to grow food for free using common waste products to supply our nutrients. Trust Natures Bio-Vital system uses this compost to regenerate degraded soils and make soil probiotic as specialist compost tea.

see his website here: