Mend it, Melton!

There’s a fab couple doing some magnificent recycling, upcycling, repurposing and general frugal lifestyle work in sunny Melton (half way to Melbourne from Ballarat).

They are Danny and Karen Ellis and they are RUDE – Reusers of Unloved Discarded Excess!  You can check them out here

or hear Karen’s elevator pitch  about what they do!  You can also send them some love on their FaceBook page.  They are a great example of people taking simple practical steps to reduce their carbon footprint, live more sustainably and obtain a yield from the amazing bounty of “junk” that our society produces.

In the old days (e.g. last week?) people used to do an extraordinary thing called ‘repair’.  Instead of throwing something away, they replaced parts or patched things up and got them working again.  It takes a whole lot of energy to replace things, so repairing is a very sound sustainability strategy.  It also empowers you when you are the one doing the repairs – you might learn new skills as well as save yourself a heap of cash.  Case in point: yesterday I replaced the keyboard of the laptop I’m typing on.  Water was spilled on the old board and fried nearly all the keys.  A bit of online searching found a replacement keyboard for less than $25.  2-3 instruction videos on YouTube told me what to do and I’m back in business.  How much cheaper is that than a new laptop? 

Permaculture principles in 10 mins

I hope you enjoy this fun explanation of the Holmgren permaculture design principles.. in less than 10 minutes!

Sure, it doesn’t cover the full complexity of the principles, but what a great introduction to share with family or friends.  Enjoy.

Earth Overshoot

Some sobering reading… We know we’re using more resources than the Earth can generate, but this website really brings it home.  These guys track it day by day and we used  the total resources our planet is going to generate this calendar year by August 2.

Which means we’re now trading on borrowed time…

Earth Overshoot Day 2017 Calculator

Food Waste!

Here’s an excerpt from an interview with Paul Hawken about his new book Drawdown.  KQED’s Devin Katayama spoke with Paul Hawken about the book and what each one of us can do to “draw down” the atmosphere’s carbon load.

Katayama: What about individuals? What can I do in my home to help out?

Hawken: The number one thing you can do, and I’m starting to do it now too by the way (which I thought I did before, but wasn’t so aware of it) is reduce food waste.  Americans waste 40 percent of the food that we produce. And it takes a lot of energy to produce that food, not just on a farm level but shipping and storage and packing and distribution and processing. It takes 14 or 15 calories for every calorie you consume, and then you toss it. Not in San Francisco, but in most cities in the world and certainly in the United States, that food then goes to landfills and produces methane, a greenhouse gas which is 34 times more powerful than CO2. So, reducing food waste.

KQED is a public radio and TV organisation in San Francisco, CA.

You can read the full article online.

London Permaculture Network festival

Here are some shots from the excellent LPN festival!

Queueing for tickets at a permaculture event?  Yes please

UK Permaculture Association stall (I think Andy has just spotted me taking the photo!)

Ian Westmoreland from Demand Energy Equality who ran a workshop on DIY solar panels – click on their name to go to their website and find out more.

Maddy Harland from Permanent Publications, reviewing practical responses to climate change, as outlined in Paul Hawken‘s book and website Drawdown

enjoying the summer sunshine

you could have bought this beauty for 75 GB Pounds

Robin Grey from 3 Acres and a Cow leading a music and singing circle which took us on a tour of British land and housing rights movements from the 1700’s to the present day.

and, finally, a cheeky smile from Tomas Remiarz at the pub to which many of us retreated afterwards!

If you haven’t read it yet, I heartily recommend Tomas’ book Forest Gardening in Practice – especially for the early sections where he gives what I think is the most eloquent and accurate outline of the history of the forest garden movement in the last few decades.

Book frenzy!

Had a great day yesterday at the London Permaculture Network festival in Camden.  Lots of highlights but I wanted to quickly share some of the killer buys from the Permanent Publications bargain table.  All books were 2 pounds.  Gates opened at 11 am.  I was there at about 11.30 and I reckon most of the books were gone by 12.  People were piling them high!  Here are some of the ones I grabbed…

False economy?

Like a lot of people who are into permaculture, I’m pretty keen on recycling, upcycling and the various other forms of non-bicycle related cycling that waste managers go on about.  It is great to save something from landfill and give it another go.  Timber, corrugated iron, old windows, posts, poles, bits of metal, wood stoves…. I’ve got a few piles of goodies around the place!

There are times, however, where upcycling might not be the best idea.  In the last fortnight, I’ve visited two places where apple grafts are covered with twisted plastic bags rather than commercial grafting tape.  When I first heard the idea, I thought it was a very clever re-use… but then I learned a bit more.  Both grafters seemed to have high failure rates: one suggested about 30% failure of apples and the other more than 50%.  Of course other factors could be at play, but since most apple grafters I know get only about 5% failure I’m a little cautious.

On one farm, I helped out in the nursery by removing tape and found many of the trees severely constricted.  Check out these photos:

The bags were tied tightly (especially at the top of the covered area) and had no ability to stretch under pressure, so when the trees started to grow in Spring, they swelled above the constriction but couldn’t do so at the point of the graft.  Once the bags are removed, the graft area can grow out and I’m sure six months would make a world of difference; the level of constriction would be much less as the graft area ‘caught up’ with the area above it.  Unfortunately, several of the grafts didn’t get that chance; a light flurry of wind was all it took to cause them to fall over – hinging on the thin weak graft area.  🙁

I think I’ll keep using commercial grafting tape.  Plastic bags might have other uses, but I don’t think apple grating is one of them.

Mike Feingold

Yesterday I spent a great couple of hours with Mike Feingold on his Bristol allotment.  Mike is a permaculture pioneer who has been working for sustainability here for decades.  Amongst many other things, he has been developing a permaculture garden at the Glastonbury festival for the last 23 years; this year with the help of a crew of 80 helpers.

Let Mike tell you about the allotment in his own words.  Here are two great YouTube links:


Food from your Forest Garden

I had the great pleasure of meeting Caroline Aitken this week.  Caroline and Matt Dunwell are the lead teachers on the Permaculture Design Course  I visited at Ragmans  Farm.  As well as being a fab permie teacher and all-round cracker on the ukelele, Caroline is the author of the fabulous Food From Your Forest Garden.

Some of you will have heard me enthuse about this book in the past: it fills a logical niche in the forest garden literature by guiding us in what to do once our garden starts producing!

Ragmans is a well-known permaculture demonstration farm which has been developed by Matt Dunwell since 1990.  It also has a long history as a permaculture training base, including courses with Bill Mollison in the early days.

p.s. Foodie trivia: Matt co authored the first Local Food Directory in 1997

Applewood Permaculture

Thanks to Chris Evans and Looby Macnamara for their hospitality when I visited their new farm – Applewood Permaculture.  Ian Lillington dropped in for lunch so we took a happy snap.  Chris felt a bit bad that he didn’t have a short-sleeved check shirt to wear, but we assured him it was only a requirement for Australians.

Chris lived and worked in Nepal from 1985 and got involved in permaculture while living there.  He is one of the few permaculture pioneers who have worked within a single developing-world country for such an extended period.  Even now, while developing the new property in the UK, he usually spends at least six weeks a year in Nepal, and is an integral part of the Himalayan Permaculture Project.   In 2001 he wrote The Farmers Handbook which was originally published in Nepali but has now been translated into multiple languages.  Read more about Chris.

Looby is well known as the author of Permaculture and People, which was published in 2012 and broke new ground as the first book to focus exclusively on personal and social applications of permaculture.   Looby has written further books, including a recently published book of poetry based around her Work That Connects.  Read more about Looby or buy the book; either directly from her or through her publisher Permanent Publications online outlet.