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.

Tomas Remiarz

Tomas Remiarz book “Forest Gardening in Practice” is a series of case studies of developed and emerging forest gardens, mostly in the UK.

Yesterday I visited Tomas at his home only a few miles from Robert Hart’s original forest garden in Shropshire.  We talked about many things, including his recent visit to Robert’s garden,  which has been closed to the public for over a decade.    Tomas was interested to note that although the garden was very overgrown (having not been maintained for 17 years), there was still some edible yield available and he was particularly interested in the presence some groundcovers not usually seen outside ancient woodlands (e.g. wood speedwell and sanicle). How did they get there?  Did they pre-date Robert’s work in the garden?  Had Robert brought them in?  Had they come in since Robert’s death in 2000 – taking advantage of the ‘abandoned’ nature of the garden?  Impossible to know for sure, but an interesting phenomena to observe.   (…and another spur to me to learn more plant ID skills!)

Tomas showed me around the housing co-op where he and 6 other adults live.  It is on a 7 acre property & has been running as a community of one sort or another for over 40 years, although the current co-op members have all joined within the last 5 years.  Their current focus is on restoring and improving the Victorian buildings on the site.

It wasn’t all chatting –  we scythed a few nettles around the on-site wetland that processes all grey water produced from the 3 houses on site.

Tomas is actively involved in a forest garden research project for the UK Permaculture Association.  Initial work has identified three areas of particular interest:

► The ratio between energy put into the forest garden and the energy yield

► Making a living from forest gardening

► The potential of forest gardens in amenity horticulture

Lots of great data and more information here:

Bristol PDC presentations

Few things reinforce the global nature of permaculture like being stuck in a suburb on the other side of the planet for a day or two and having the random opportunity to attend final design presentations of a local Permaculture Design Course.

It was a privilege to sit in and enjoy the presentations and then share conversations in the pub afterwards. Mentally comparing Ballarat and Bristol, I was struck by the similarity of responses to the PDC that people talk about – how it was more than they expected, more than plants and compost, more than gardening… how lifestyle choices had been expanded, people had been inspired, how site visits and unexpected presentations had shifted ideas.

The design work was done in groups and the locations were diverse and interesting; a community garden space, an acre and a half private small holding, the garden surrounding an internal hotel lawn, a community building (ex library) leading to an amazing hidden acreage of meadows.  Because several people had plans to implement the plans, there was a reality and immediacy to the designs – these were not theoretical musings with no impact; people are going to implement these designs!

…and can you believe that someone recognised me from Ian Lillington’s shot of me and Lachie McKenzie at St Weburgh’s City Farm from yesterday?  Seriously?!