The Layers of a Forest FREE PDF

Forest Garden

The Layers of a Forest is one of the lectures turned PDF in the upcoming Food Forest Gardening Course, available to you for free. The 5 page ebook provides an introduction to forest gardening, how to design the structure of a forest garden, some technical theory and the few of the endless benefits of establishing a forest garden. By no means is it a thesis, however, for those who are interested as how to start a forest garden, this little ebook is a good starting point.

Please download, read, enjoy, and leave some feedback/thoughts in the comment section. Happy reading permies!

ForestGardening [PDF] //

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Permaculture Rap

If you’ve been meaning to get into permaculture & wonder what it’s all about – these dope verses about permaculture should enlighten and inspire you. Bill Mollison has a brilliant sense of humour so it’s hard to tell if this is actually a joke or not – either way it is hilarious.P-p-p-p-p-p-permaculture!

Up-cycled Bottles for Seedling Propagation

On the first urban permaculture farming course I attended, the teacher brilliantly told all the students, ‘plants don’t know what shape they are in or what shape they should grow into, and nor do they care.’ As long as plants have a medium to grow in, water, sun and nutrients, we can use whatever we have at available to us to cultivate our plants.

An essential permaculture philosophy is that the problem is the solution. Managing excessive plastic waste all throughout Asia is a major issue – especially on Koh Phangan where recycling facilities are minimal and dependence on plastic is maximum. On the island getting plastic from local bins is easy and free, so we gathered many plastic bottles with the idea of raising our seedlings in these plastic bottles – which would’ve been burnt otherwise – thus upcycling a bottle, saving it from being turned into pollution. All of these plants we started on our balcony, a relatively small space – and there are plenty of plants growing.

plastic bottle seedlings

The above photo shows the first leaves of our Okra, Watermelon, Tomatoes, Wax Peppers, Thai Basil and another lone seedling growing quickly in our bottles.

It’s very straightforward to make, and took us in total 1 hour:

  •  Cut a large (1.5L) bottle in half lengthwise.
  • Punch some holes in the bottom of the plastic so that excess moisture can drain. Per bottle, we punctured at least 10 holes.
  • Fill up the container with good, rich soil (worm castings and well rotted compost is ideal).
  • Plant seeds appropriate depth according to seed size. If the seed is small, scatter the seeds over the surface (being careful not too scatter too many to avoid overcrowding) or if it is large, the planting depth of the seed should be twice its size. Don’t worry too much about this – the seeds will most likely sprout regardless of how perfect you plant.
  • And lastly, water with the mist setting on your hose and place in the sunlight.
We also bought a plastic seedling tray from our local organic store. We planted a lot of Chinese Kale and Thai Basil.

We also bought a plastic seedling tray from our local organic store. We planted a lot of Chinese Kale and Thai Basil.

In an upcoming post I’ll talk about taking cuttings and plant propagation – a simple way to duplicate existing plants for our own garden. A great way to gather cuttings to propagate is to go for a walk around your neighbourhood and see what plants are in your neighbours gardens! We found this beautiful Butterfly Pea Bush (a medicinal, edible wild flower) on a side street near our house that we ended up propagating in the seedling tray with our Kale.

Josh gathering Butterfly Pea cuttings for propagation.

Josh gathering Butterfly Pea cuttings for propagation.

And here are some of our chillies and tomatoes growing with Pineapple heads (that will re-sprout for later planting), next to some home-made pineapple banana compote.

seedlings & jam

If you have any questions/comment/success stories or failures, feel free to comment below and let us know how your permaculture endeavours are going. The next post will address how to propagate seedlings in urban environments in a step by step breakdown. Happy Planting!

Practical Permaculture & Forest Gardening Course!

For all the Koh Phangan-ers who’ve been talking to me about learning permaculture – well, finally, after many months, I proudly present to you a practical, hands on, down and dirty food forest gardening course.

Most PDC’s focus on theory – and most of us simply want to know how to grow our own food. So, I’ve taken the most important theoretical aspects of a introductory PDC and combined it with practical gardening so there’s less fluff & more of the stuff students wish to learn.

Check out my poster for details, and contact me to ask any questions about the course. Much love!

permaculture

 

Russell Brand on Localizing Food Production

I’ve always enjoyed Russell Brands eccentricity and passion ever since watching that hilarious video of him appearing on MSNBC’s morning program and completely making fun of the news anchors interviewing him. If you haven’t watched his alternative video’s before it’s easy to presume that Brand is a shallow single-faced celebrity, yet this is far from the real character behind the fame-facade. Flicking through youtube, there are interviews of him talking about Transcendental Meditation, empathetic spiritual centered drug rehabilitation programs, debates on capitalism and alternative economics; the list goes on and on and is worth checking out.

Over the past year Brand has been engaging greatly with social activism and has supported many local campaigns by being present in rallies, protests, and using his online fan base to spread these messages. On his youtube channel, titled ‘The Trews’ – which stands for true news – he posts his opinions on many topics, and recently tackled the issue of local food production.

Brand and his guest, Helena Norberg-Hodge, discuss how the worlds agricultural needs can be met with localized, organic farming – a statistic released from the UN, along with recent trade tariff agreements and what that actually entails.

A interesting little video with many interesting issues worth discussing:

Evolving Intentional Communities

Over the past 18 months, I’ve been travelling through Australia and Asia jumping between ashrams, gatherings, communes, festivals and communities – sometimes I’ve been backpacking, other times studying, volunteering or teaching, and I’d like to share observations and thoughts from the conversations and experiences I’ve had.

All of the communities I have visited have either had spirituality or permaculture as the thread that binds the community together but never have I seen the two harmoniously combined; the most obvious observation is that permaculture projects tend to lack spirituality and intentional communities lack good permaculture. And this is ironic for both permaculture and spiritual communities as permaculture at its core has strong sound values and beliefs that extends beyond the material, and spiritual communities are dependent upon the abundance nature provides though often fail to realize their environmental footprint due to mindless consumption.

Integrating Permaculture with Spirituality

Combining mindful sustainable design with mindful-ness is the necessary key to bring harmony to any community regardless of its central values. Building or being a part of a community is challenging and for long-term success permaculture and spirituality need integration – both are interconnected, and both have similar goals in mind. Permaculture projects aim towards sustainability; harmony; care of the earth and its inhabitants; to share equally in the abundance of our gardens, all through clever, practical, efficient design. Spirituality, by deepening our own knowledge of ourselves, alleviates our pain and suffering to bring us into peace, harmony, and happiness. Both are so remarkably similar it is baffling that so often the two are seen as separate and distinct from one another.

This separation comes from a clear misunderstanding as to what a spiritual practice actually is. When I was staying on projects I repeatedly met resistance when mentioning my own spiritual practices – namely meditation – through misunderstanding exactly what that entails. The assumption I constantly met was spirituality is for far-out esoteric la-di-da daydreamers who have little concept of reality, science, and the governing laws of planet earth. Many practices are certainly imaginative and may seem bizarre from an outsider’s point of view, but this is far from the actuality of what a practice can be. Spiritual practices, in whatever form, simply bring happiness and peace to the practitioner. Spirituality itself is immensely vast and can be utilized in anyway – it doesn’t have to be rituals or routines; there doesn’t even have to be a specific regular practice – it merely serves as a practical tool for our own individual growth.

The Konohana Family situated southwest of Tokyo serves as a prime example of a completely sustainable (bar spices, oil, and salt) intentional community that has, at its core, spirituality binding it together. The direct translation of their philosophy from Japanese to English is ‘Polish the Heart,’ and that is what all of the members of Konohana are there to do for themselves. That being said, there is no collective religion or belief of the family; there are Buddhists and Christians, and others with their own faith – yet all look to nature as a source of inspiration and each individual is there to polish their own hearts.

Konohana started in 1994 with 20 members and has quadrupled in population in its 20 year life. The communities land is decentralized; its members live spread around multiple buildings within a few kilometer radius to one another and daily the group meet at the community building to for gatherings and meals. Konohana owns 16 hectares of land, producing an incredible amount of vegetables, grains, fruits, eggs, milk and honey, much of it is sold locally as a source of income for the community. Their environmental impact is extremely small, using half the amount of CO2 emissions and overall has an ecological footprint one-third of Japans national average. What the Konohana family has achieved environmentally is phenomenal and should be looked to as a model for building future communities, though their aim initially was not to be entirely sustainable but is a bi-product of sound core philosophies.

Each day at the community hall the family gathers to update one another about necessary farm matters, but more importantly they gather to share their feelings, emotions, troubles, or struggles of the day from their hearts. It is known as the ‘Meeting For Harmony’ and is the glue that holds everything in place; without it, the community would not have survived the length that it is. Here’s an excerpt from their profile on ecovillage.org describing the evening meeting:

‘…we always keep our eyes open to invite those who are not aware of their problematic points or who are unable to share them with others, to look within and communicate what they find. Family members are positive about problems and issues, because they are opportunities for spiritual growth once brought to the surface. This fundamental attitude of constant self-reflection through every aspect of daily life is key to the harmony that exists in the Family.’ (1)

Beyond and behind the farm, the family, each individual member and their own personal beliefs lies this practice of sharing, speaking and listening from the heart. Beyond and behind permaculture’s many facets lies the 3 core ethics; care of the earth, care of the people, and fair share. The 3 core ethics are immaterial by nature and approach spirituality; if spirituality is a quest for growth then at the heart of permaculture is spirituality – and it isn’t far-fetched obscure non-sense – it is practical and powerful, and the Konohana family is a solid example of the possibilities of valuing and using spirituality above and before everything.

The Next-Step For Spiritual Communities

Spiritual communities – or ‘Conscious’ communities, on the other hand, tend to have minimal environmental awareness. Communities labelling themselves ‘conscious’ who consume plastics, GMO’s, have luscious and bountiful material abundance are, indeed, not conscious – at least not entirely. People practice mindfulness in endless ways – eating, walking, speaking, and listening – but the mindfulness seldom moves past the self, and herein lies the problem. Being conscious of ones’ actions and thoughts is a good beginning; the next step is to look outside and become aware of the consequences of those actions and decisions. Consumption choices should be scrutinized regularly by asking questions like, where does this come from, how far has it travelled, what is it made from and where did the materials come from to make it, what is its packaging made out of and is the company that manufactured this product ethically sound? And is there, perhaps, a more sustainable solution?

Conscious communities provide the space for amazing personal transformations, however critical thinking in regards to the impact of individual consumption is a rare trait. Questions like the ones mentioned above are at the heart of anybody who is environmentally empathetic when purchasing goods, and mindless consumption in conscious communities needs to forever be eliminated for them to grow. If anything, consuming wisely by eating local organic produce and therefore not supporting the horrible use of herbicides/pesticides on the soil is, at the very least a big thank you to our planet who gives us so much – though the impact of a conscious choice of consumption ripples far. It is a statement that says caring for the planet is greater than over-indulgence. It is the diversion of a dollar away from a multi-national co-operation. It is so many wonderful things and for the evolution of spiritual communities environmental awareness is the missing link and can be achieved through the integration of good permaculture design. Nature has and always will provide for us with food, water, resources and through her sheer endless beauty; spirituality needs permaculture as both a means of giving back and to ensure our planet keeps on giving.

Permaculture and spirituality depend upon harmonious integration for long-term success; they are deeply interconnected to one another – and both aim for the same goal; to grow. And what exactly is it that we’re growing? In Masanobu Fukuokwa’s own words, ‘The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings.’

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(1) Konohana Family, Japan :http://genoa.ecovillage.org/index.php/country-activities/japan/15-konohana-family-japan

GMO Debate

Sam Seder provides a humorous commentary on this debate between young GMO activist Rachel Parent and Kevin O’Leary, pro-GMO journalist who seems to have his hands deep within Monsanto’s pockets.

The main point in this video as Kevin himself states, is that corporations and their researchers don’t know the long-term results of GMO food, which is close to 100% of all of the food stocked in supermarkets. There never has been long-term tests from GMO companies or independents as to how these products effect human or ecological health – besides the fact that ‘…we [the consumers] are the lab rats..,’ which is quoted in the video by Kevin.

Monsanto doesn’t know what effects GMO seeds may have in the long run and so we the people have become the test subjects – and judging by Monsanto’s track records of destroying the land and ruining peoples lives (google India’s Suicide Belt for further reading) the result won’t be great for anybody who isn’t corporate.

One more reason to go organic.

Moving Towards Plastic Independence

image source: cdn.ecowatch.com

image source: cdn.ecowatch.com

We all know about society’s over-consumption of plastic. We’ve heard again and again that it takes up to a millennia for plastics to bio-degrade (1), and consumers worldwide are using approximately 500 billion single-use plastic bags per year (2). And the issue of micro-plastic in our oceans in the past few years have gained awareness via social media. With all this data being perpetually smothering our faces on a regular basis, it really begs the question why aren’t governments providing effective immediate solutions on a macro-scale to combat society’s rampant plastic consumption? If plastics are so costly in terms of energy consumption and environmental impact, then action has to be undertaken promptly, and in this article are practical solutions as to how you can build and begin successful projects.

Read the full post published on the Permaculture Research Institute here

drastic plastics

Plastics are chains of carbon and hydrogen usually derived from coal, crude oil, and gas and are combined together in a plant creating a ‘polymer.’ The polymer is processed and is turned into plastic pellets or a fine powder – this product is sold to plastic manufacturing companies and it is then transformed into thermoplastics or thermosets. From there the manufacturers use the processes known as injection molding, blow molding or extrusion to create their desired product. Long story short.

To do all this, coal is mined, oil is drilled, gas is hydro-fracked (all of these materials processed and transported), and large processing plants combine the by-products of these materials creating ‘raw’ plastic. Then more fossil fuels are used to turn the raw material into a useable product, and then more fossil fuels are used for transportation. And then some more to ship it to market.

All this reminds me of the wonderful illustration in Bill Mollison: A Designers Manual. Inconceivable amounts of energy is used for the products we depend upon and what’s even more striking is how we consumers dispose of it.

permaculture


The absurdity of industrial egg manufacturing

My next post will be longer essay as to how on a macro-level we can all contribute to drastic plastc consumption reduction. For now, though, refuse the bag if it’s offered, reuse an old bottle for drinking and recycle it once you’re done.