Sep 24, 2011

What is Permiculture

I've been using the internet to learn more about gardening for many years now, and permaculture has always been there on the sidelines. Occasionally it would be mentioned in relation to some chickens or composting, but it always seemed to be this kind of vague thing, something for hippies when I tend towards a scientific point of view.

Boy was I wrong. What I have learned is that a scientific mentality is at the core of permaculture, "Knowledge of the physical or material world gained through observation and experimentation", this is your starting point.

OK so that's simple enough, but what comes next? Here is where I would normally start to get lost. On most of the material you can find on the internet there is very little specific information about what you should actually do with this knowledge. There is no consistency in how to do it, only lots of individual examples of people doing their own things. A Google search for permaculture will revile content about building houses from junk, making a fireplace, raising cattle, a composting toilet or growing vegetables.

Meanwhile if you look up a non-permaculture approach to something like maybe a vegetable bed rotation system it can provide you with a clear set of guidelines, plant this here and that there, move this crop to that bed, rest this bed for this long and replant that crop there. Superficially it seems more logical.

I think it's this relative vagueness that can make permaculture seem like a bunch of hippies talking about their love of nature and not much else. This was all cleared up for me when I was watching a DVD from Geoff Lawton about designing with permaculture and he dropped one word that clicked with me big time. EDIT: looking back over this, I'd hate for anyone to get the impression I don't like hippies. I know some great hippies whom I love dearly, in some ways I count myself as one. Its more just that this coming together with science makes me feel more secure about the decisions I'm making. Anyway back to that important word....


So permaculture starts with observing the successful (sustainable) relationships, patterns and cycles in nature and then is using them as the basis for your own creativity. Permaculture is like being a painter when mother nature (or science) is literally your paint, brushes and canvas. This is why some tend to be vague about how it is applied, because just like any other piece of creativity there are millions of variations for how it can be done. This is about understanding the tools at your disposal and then coming up with your own design with those tools.

This fits in perfectly with my frame of mind and my ambition. In a way this what I have done in other parts of my life already, I teach animation, but its not about telling the students exactly what they must animate, its about showing them the tools and techniques for animating so that they can then go on to express their own creativity with those tools. When I animate I am observing nature, the way things behave and function in the world and choosing which of these I want to apply to my own expression at any given point.

Permaculture can be applied to any aspect of your life, how you interact with your neighbours, how you get to work, how you get your food, and of course how you garden. It can be small or large, if you compost your kitchen scraps then that is permaculture because it uses a natural process to create energy, or you can set up your entire home so that it produces more than it consumes. Any system that gives back to the world more than it takes is Permaculture.

Permaculture is not a set of rules, it is a framework for decision making, it is a launching pad for your ideas.

Permaculture has the potential to solve every major problem confronting humanity today.
There are some videos about permaculture featuring Geoff Lawton on my video page, and I highly recommend his DVDs.
While Permaculture is 1000s of years old, it was first defined as Permaculture by an Australian Bill Millison.

Sep 22, 2011

Tipping Point

Hi there!

Just a quick update. Our house went on the market yesterday. (

We have selected a favourite house that's on the market at Benarkin so we are ready to spring into action when we can. Its pretty stressful, the market is sliding, which makes all the numbers involved inaccurate and unpredictable for a novice like myself. There is a lot of tension around the house, but we need to brace ourselves and ride it out, an engaging, challenging and empowering new life awaits us.

I feel like a teenager again, when I first moved out of the safety of home and started to learn about animation, unsure what to do, unsure where it will take me, so much I don't know. I'm a child again, maybe I always was and just didn't realise it. I'm reminded of a Richard Williams quote, "You don't know, what you don't know." Its time to stop playing with toys so much and really start to understand the world around me.

I find my mind racing to arm itself with knowledge to defend against the unknown, I'm a sponge soaking up information about soils, crops, permiculture, animal care and resource management. But it only delays the emptiness because for now I can't put anything into practice. So instead it ends up blurting out of me in impenetrable rants and repetition that would put The Rain Man to shame, it tortures my poor wife. This practice, perhaps combined with my wobbly health of late seems also to push more immediate concerns and information about the logistics of the sale and move out of my mind, leaving me talking rubbish at times or just outright dumbfounded, which in turn creates more tension.

Its time to take a breath.

This land we buy and what lives on it will probably become my main concern for the rest of my able bodied life, it will be my definitive piece of creativity. We are standing on the tipping point. I feel that tingling sensation you get on a roller-coaster just before it takes the first plunge after the long slow drag up the slope.

Hang on!