Monday, 30 November 2015

Permaculture Politics: From Competition to Co-Operation

When I discovered Permaculture, I found more than knowledge and skill, I met my community. Over the years, as I have tried to make a living doing the only thing that makes sense to me, I have found currents of self-righteousness and competition in what is now considered an industry. The ethics and principles that had drawn me to make Permaculture my purpose, were not always being practiced.
To have an impact environmentally, we must look at our social patterns and conditioning. As the movement grows, I am relieved to witness a generation of people willing to discuss, share, and admit they don’t in fact, know everything.
There is a symbiosis of nutrient exchange and co-operation exercised in these systems that enables the forest to continue cycling in a self-fulfilling and efficient manner, with no waste.
If permaculture aims to mimic nature effectively, we must change our individualised compete and segregate mind-sets to that of co-operation and integration. The politics of permaculture have had the ability to veer far from its very own principles and practices, causing rifts within an industry based on culture and community.
I thought this analogy quite lovely, and very fitting in my experience.
So I thank those pioneers for the rich soil they have created, and the hard work done photosynthesizing in a harsh environment.
The next succession species is a little more fleshy, diverse and palatable, nursing the surrounding conditions for saplings to take hold and grow tall into the canopy.

If progress is to be achieved in the movement of permaculture, regenerative living, and earth renewal, then we must begin to act like a forest system – constantly exchanging, sharing, and cooperating to achieve a state of symbiosis.

During the first Permaculture Design Course (PDC) I participated in, I was met with much more than just practical knowledge, design skill, environmental inspiration and strategies for action - I met my community. 
The beauty of a two week permaculture immersion is the sense of close family that develops over such a short period of time. 

Each time I have taken a PDC or Diploma, Advanced Course etc., I have been blown away by the sheer diversity of people that come together for one thing: love of the environment and its inhabitants. I have witnessed men that work in the corporate sector work alongside vegan gutter-punks to create compost. I have seen people of all races, sexualities, religions, beliefs and lifestyles work together to follow the same set of ethics and values. 

This is one of the things that inspired me to follow and practice permaculture. 

Permaculture is based on systems thinking  using ecosystems to gain insight into the workings of the natural world, so we may then apply these strategies to our own systems - whether they be landscape, social, economical, or otherwise.

My Permaculture journey has not always been met with such free-flowing acceptance, love and understanding. Upon my introduction to permaculture I was made painfully aware that the two co-founders of the concept, Bill Mollison and David Holmgren, do not get along. This struck me as odd, as one of the main messages I receive from permaculture is the need for community. Over time, this need has become ever more prominent in my mind, as I see that to truly become regenerative as a species, we cannot carry our individualised Western mindsets into the future if we are to be self-sufficient - it is in fact, unsustainable. 

I thought it ironic that the people that worked on a methodology based on systems thinking, with a firm understanding of the balance between interspecies communities, could not themselves work towards a future of communication. 

This is not a criticism of those as individuals; it is more an observation that this has been the foundation of permaculture, and I have often wondered what that has meant for its evolution. 
I have witnessed people within - what is now called ‘a movement’ - gossip in regards to the reasoning behind the founder’s disengagement, and I have even been asked (multiple times) whether I am in the 'Bill or David Camp'. If I am to be completely honest with my readers, this question utterly disgusts me. To ask this is to go against all I believe permaculture stands for, and I feel if we carry these ways of thinking, this idea of segregation, into the future, we really have no hope of environmental repair. Because we are part of ecology, and if we cannot repair our social structures, and the individual mindsets that create them, we will see no true progress. 

Miles Olson, author of 'Unlearn, Rewild' states in a podcast hosted by Ayana Young: "Imagine that suddenly the wheels of the system grind to a halt, completely stopped. Well, there was a time that I thought 'Yes, thats exactly what we need, thats the answer!’ I’m quite convinced, and I don't know if anyone could convince me otherwise, that I think a truer analysis of what would happen in such a case of collapse or a revolution, is that by noon of the day after the revolution, everyone would be all back at work, in the same repressive patterns building the same structures unconsciously. Because what really builds the oppressive structures that we are surrounded by, is a programming that is internalized, its all stuff we carry with us internally." 

As such we must move away from certain modalities of thought in order to progress with this movement of permaculture, regenerative living, environmental justice and Earth renewal. 
I am in neither camp and I never will be. There are people’s work which greatly inspire and influence me, but I do not compare the apple tree to the raspberry cane in a food forest. Comparison will be the downfall of this species Which brings me to my next point: Ego must be redefined in Permaculture if we are going to progress with the ideas and ethics it presents.

As I delved deeper into this movement, and it became my scene, my home, my family, friends, colleagues and peers, I was exposed to an astounding amount of comparison, criticism and righteousness. In some cases I saw a competition mentality, people not exchanging knowledge and ideas like a forest does nutrients, but arguing and debating points. Ironically most of this knowledge was not battled from personal experience, but from books written by other pioneers, and then used as ammunition. 
I would see the subtle scoffs and scowls as some younger generation earth stewards would state opinions, ask questions, or try and create a business within the industry. Some pioneers puffed up like pigeons, others guarded their turf with the fierceness of a flock of magpies. Gossip of who was doing what slicked the rippling movement like an oil spill, disabling the next generations from even taking a breath. 
The permaculture principle of 'co-operation not competition' was not being embodied. 
I felt the social conditioning of our culture was ever prevalent, and we must remind ourselves that culture is what has enabled the indigenous peoples - whom permaculture has developed its principles from - to live in such a balance with the natural world around them.  To practice PermaCulture, we must create stable, resilient social systems and structures, and embody a culture of change. 

I must say that I have not only encountered the rigid mentalities discussed. I have also experienced great warmth, support and empowerment. 
Now, I am being exposed to a new generation of Permaculturists, and the more farms, courses, talks and events I attend with a density of younger enthusiasts, the more hope I have for changing the trajectory of the industry. 

People sit with their cups of nettle tea discussing different ideologies, scientific views and theories, techniques and belief systems, keen and interested in communication with their fellow Naturalists. 
These people have witnessed the common burn-out that permaculture pioneers have experienced, and instead wish to find a niche, and let others fill the gaps of succession around them, in a mutual exchange which benefits the whole. 
Like a mycelial network, I see practitioners inviting people on board to projects, have less reliance and focus on intellectual and financial capital, and more on social, experiential and cultural capital. 

When I co-facilitate our PDCs, I run an exercise on the ‘8 Forms of Capital’, and as it turns out, cultural capital is what people in our society are lacking.  Considering our racial diversity and history of attempted indigenous genocide, this makes sense. If we are to reformat our society into an interconnected fabric of resilience within community, our self-righteousness, ego and pride will need to be fuelled with awareness and regulation. 
We need to create a welcoming, understanding and inclusive atmosphere to involve and empower people of all creeds, beliefs and scenes. If this movement is to move beyond a niche, if we are to finally move beyond "is that like horticulture?", we will need to include people of all streams to formulate the river of potential possibilities. 
A senior Permaculturist explained it beautifully when asked about the politics and attitudes expressed within the movement. He stated that the pioneer species within permaculture were just the same as those of a land-based system - they were prickly, harsh, and grew in a disturbed environment ready to create more optimal conditions for the next generation. Although they were protecting and nurturing the soil for the next generation to grow in, the very thing that made them pioneers was the very same reason they had trouble getting along with others - they were thorny, spikey, rough and tough!
Hopefully, with the right mindset, and the application of permaculture’s principles in all facets, those late succession species will shade out and make obsolete the current system, fostering both ecological and economic growth, providing enough fruit for generations to come. 

Monday, 2 November 2015

Sacred Ecology - AIR Weekend

The weekend of the Spring Equinox in September of 2015 was dedicated to the exploration of the element Air, and was the second of the Sacred Ecology workshop weekends.
Although, the course was never intended to solely be about skills and workshops, but to give people a chance to delve deeper into an awareness of natural systems, and an awareness of the self.

I arrived feeling a little apprehensive as course co-ordinator and co-facilitator, wondering if I had forgotten anything, going over lists in my head.... I left feeling recharged, replenished and serene. This gave me a sense of how powerfully nourishing these weekends are; if they can effect even the person co-ordinating in such a significant way, they must be having a consequential impact on the other participants as well.

The first night brought us to circle in the beautiful little cottage-style house of the Natural Healing Space- the fire was on, the tea was boiling, and after a nutrient dense meal we all sat down and took a moment to reconnect. There were quite a few who knew each other from the first beautiful winter gathering at Hollyburton Farm, and their were some who had decided to join the course in Spring, so we each took a moment to introduce ourselves and express lyrically the trajectory the winds of our lives were taking. Some were tremulous, others breezy, with as many directions and fluctuations as the wind itself.

Bathed in candlelight, Claire Dunn (co-facilitator and author of 'My Year Without Matches') weaved us through basketry, and we sat and stitched the night away.

The next morning dawned bright, the sun spilled onto the Earth's skin, cracking the winter with its warmth. We gathered for a morning of Nature awareness exercises, and each found a sit spot where we would observe the natural world at different intervals through the weekend.

In the Spirit of Air, I ran a class on fermentation; as the presence or lack of oxygen is key to this process, as well as factors such as time and temperature. During the session we had a look (and taste) of creamy milk kefir, sparkling lemon water kefir, kombucha, Saurkraut and home-made tempeh (which is a recent exploration that I am hoping to perfect this summer).
Our incredible nutrient dense food cook, Mel, also brought a few of her delicious fermented goods to share, including pickled choko!

One beautiful lesson I myself learned that day, was the art of feeling into group energy. There were certain activities which had been planned, but with the emergence of the sun, we decided to give the afternoon to the breeze and let it cradle each individual in its arms, allowing participants to explore their own direction. It was luscious. We all were lying around, some talking, some enveloped in the embrace of hammocks, others lazing on the grass watching the clouds pass and a few with methodic hands continuing the weaving of baskets.
It is one thing to be a facilitator of knowledge, but it is another to allow peoples facilitation of their own wisdom, through nature, themselves and each other.

The Spring ritual differed greatly from that of our Winter gathering, as the depths of Winter often bring our shadows to the surface, and we look more closely at deeper issues that effect us. Our Winter ritual symbolised the return of the sun, focusing on what it was we were wishing to let go of, so we would be ready to step into the light after shaking the shadows.
The shadows shaken, Spring symbolises the seed that is sprouting, and we each planted a metaphoric seed that we are hoping to nourish to fruition.
Snaking our way up the hill, wreathed in jasmine and with drums beating we focused on the air in our lungs and the sun on our backs.
In groups, we carried on from the Winter weekend as Claire guided us in making primitive fire. We created the fire for our ritual circle with our own hands, an incredible skill and a beautiful offering.

During the ritual, one of the participants honoured and invoked the element of Air with one of the most incredible songs I have ever heard. When we were all lazing in the sun, she was meditating on the question of how to bring Air into our circle, and was gifted with that song. It sent such sweet shivers up my spine, and tears came to my eyes as I was experiencing true magick. The magick that is within each one of us, if we choose to listen.

I watched as the last of the circle made their way down the hill, skipping in their spring garlands as the sun set. I then sat with Claire as she held the fire board, assisting me as I attempted to make primitive fire on my own. I settled myself, took a breath, and placed my hands on the phallic Xantharia stalk. Claire took the fire stalk once and 'floated' it for me, keeping it warm so it didn't loose friction and heat. I then grasped it between my plams once again, and was so focused on my technique, on my breathing, on my core.... that I was shocked when I heard her say "You've got a coal!". A fire inside me burst as I looked down at the smouldering coal and tears sprang to my eyes. This was a milestone for me. Fire to me was a responsibility, a true ability to respond to any situation. It was a birthright. It was the way of the ultimate provider. I felt, for some reason, if I could make fire with my hands, I would always be ok.
It symbolised a big step, as during the Winter weekend I practiced, but could not get a coal on my own. And as I sat in my cold little room in the hills, lighting a fire with matches and newspaper, I was reminded each time how much I relied on this combustion, and how disconnected I felt when creating it.

That night the course combined with the Spring Sauna Celebration at the Natural Healing Space- an incredible and rejuvenating night enjoying a hand built sauna, cold plunge and hot tub, accompanied by a home cooked meal and replenishing coconut water. As the night drew to a close I had my second cup of chai and raw chocolate treat, smiling to myself as I floated to bed under the starts.

Yoga was offered each morning, and after breakfast we reconvened to learn about the world of bird language, and how to connect deeper with nature through awareness of sound and song.
More time was given for people to enjoy their sit spot with their newly acquired knowledge.

The afternoon found us in the garden, as I took a class on planting seedlings, microclimates and some basic Permaculture design principles. I watched, hands covered in soil from planting tomatoes in the greenhouse, and observed everyone pottering around in the garden, covered in hay and wearing sun hats. It was a wonderful collective activity, celebrating the new growth of Spring.
I guided those who were unsure of where to plant things, but tried not to give too much away, as I feel that some of the joy of planting comes through your own connection to the land, and I believe people won't develop their own intuition with nature if they are told what to do all the time.

After sharing our last nutrient dense meal of the weekend, we gathered in a circle and spoke of what we would take away with us from the weekend, and I ended with a paragraph from Stawhawks 'The Earth Path', the book in which the course is based on;

"Praise and gratitude to the air, the breath of the living earth. We give thanks to you for our lives, for our breath, for the literal inspiration that keeps us alive. praise and gratitude for those ancient ancestors, the first magicians, that lean red to use sunlight to make food, and so gave us the gift of oxygen. Praise and gratitude to those who learned to burn food for energy, and to the great exchange, he world breath that passes from green lung to the red and back again. Praise for the sun that sets the cauldron of the winds in motion, and to the great winds that soar over the face of the earth. Praise to the storm that brings the rains, the water of life to the land. Gratitude to the creatired of the air, the birds that lift up our hearts with their songs, the insects in their erotic caress of the flowers - a caress that brings the fruit of the seed.
May our minds be as clear and open as the air; may we learn from the wind winds how to soar across barriers and sweep away obstacles. May the air and the winds of the world be cleansed. May we learn to be good guardians and friends and allies of the air that is our life; may we make the right decisions that can restore the balance.
Blessed be the air."

We are now taking bookings for our Summer Sacred Ecology Weekend. For more information and bookings please click here.

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Permaculture Design Course Graduation

July 2015

 During each Permaculture Design Course Graduation, we feel it couldn't get better. Myself and Tamara Griffiths fall in love with the class, we share certain jokes, eat communal food and look forward to joining with like minded individuals each Wednesday to discuss issues, ideas and strategies we are incredibly passionate about.

This Graduation had 18 students presenting what they had learnt in a fun, creative and supportive environment.

During the course we focus on a range of teaching methods and processes, to allow a wide range of learners to engage and interact with the course material. Myself and Tamara have trained with Robin Clayfield and Rosemary Morrow (amongst others) to understand not only PDC content, but how to deliver it in a way that is exciting and fun. 
I look forward to developing these methods further so they may translate to other countries and languages, making Permaculture Education accessible to a broader community of people that may require its strategies as the effects of climate change, economic crisis, food security and peak oil become more prominent. 

 The Presentation Day of our Course allows us to gauge how well we have done as facilitators- and each time I am aware of the steps we have made to change things up, add material and work on certain areas to ensure participants develop a comprehensive understanding of Design.

The last Presentation Day had us all on an incredible sugar high, as two participants presented their design in Edible Form! They displayed Food Forests, Dams, Houses, Solar panels, Chickens, Bee hives and more in a 3D model that we could eat!

There were a range of really creative and really practical designs and ideas. Although we tell participants that they can be as creative as they like, it is explained that the ideas and thinking behind a design are what really matter (in other words: don't freak out if your not artistic!).
Value Diversity is a Permaculture principle that is embraced during our courses, as everyone has something different and relevant to add.

The day was filled with beautiful drawings, impressive powerpoint presentations, interesting stories, thoughtful poems and amazing 3D models, folios and posters!

Both facilitators and participants left feeling inspired and energised. There are a few participants who have joined the designers guild, some that have their first clients, others that are interested in teaching, some which have gained insights to how to change their lifestyles, a couple that are working with community initiatives and development and many who are applying the principles and strategies to their own garden. I feel confident that everyone took something with them they can use thoughtfully and practically in some way. 

We are now developing more course content, have booked a range of guest facilitators, have a new projector to add to the mix (getting fancy!) and have purchased Andy Goldrings book on teaching Permaculture to gain even more perspectives and add to our teaching toolkit!

Thank you to all our participants, Permaculture Education and Facilitation is our greatest passion, and it has all been possible thanks to you.

Next Permaculture Design Course commencing Sept 9th 2015:

Monday, 3 August 2015

PlanetShifter Interview

Here is my Interview with PlanetShifter Magazine:

These were some of the most thought provoking and well planned questions I have ever been asked, including my opinions of Permaculture and Spirituality, being a woman in Permaculture, if I see myself as a survivalist and how I am managing to balance activism and living.

"I do believe someone is more capable of making change through love and motivation rather than fear and desperation. "

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Permaculture and Earth Based Spirituality

I feel I have always had a connection with the Natural world around me. Although I grew up in a suburban town, white walled with manicured lawns, I sought out the magickal places. Places where trees grew tall and creeks bubbled, where rabbits bounded away from my footsteps and birds carried their song through the blue skies of summer.
Even though I could still hear the hum of traffic in the distance, and would pluck at the litter left by the banks, these places did something to my soul.

I started practicing Earth based spirituality quite young, when I was about 11 or so I brought my first book on Witchcraft. It stirred something in me, and I realized that I had been practicing this instinctively anyway.

Now that I am a Permaculturist, the two seem to go hand in hand. First of all, let me mention that Permaculture has no religious or spiritual connotation, it is a Design Science based on Systems Ecology.
There are many ways to define Permaculture, and I do not think one definition is 'right'. Permaculture is many things, and has now been taken and adapted by many different cultures and people. My definition of Permaculture is "Careful Research, Planning and Design of Social, Building or Landscape Systems which mimic Nature for Maximum Efficiency".
Permaculture considers each element and its relationship to all other elements within that system, aiming to create a multi-functional, closed loop system.
To me, Permaculture is common sense.

So it may be a shock to some saying that Earth based spirituality and Permaculture are elements which combine fluidly in my life. Sometimes talking spirituality (and having dreadlocks) somehow means you are taken less seriously.
I do not believe science and spirituality are mutually exclusive, and if Permaculture looks to many ancient cultures for its inspiration, we are truly missing the myth, story, culture and spirituality that often accompany these ways of life.
We have lost our sense of ritual in many aspects. Now we have other rituals, whether it is our morning ritual of brushing our teeth or making our coffee... but these do not necessarily connect us to the land.

When I was younger and I first read about Witchcraft and Paganism, it sang to the depths of my soul. It was all about seasonal festivals that tied into our food, celebrating the harvest by making corn dollies, or caring for ourselves in the depths of winter during Yule (Christmas) by using the vegetation available at the time; Oranges, cloves, pine needles. These festivals celebrated the longest and shortest night of the year, and gave rituals to focus on what this meant internally as well as externally.
Samhain (Halloween) was celebrated as a Pagan festival, Pumpkins being ripe during October in the Northern Hemisphere. Now, in Australia, we follow this trend, but instead of following the seasons, we take the calendar date and ship pumpkins in from the North. You will find Pumpkins in supermarkets in Australia during the month of October, which removes us even further from our connection to the seasons and our food.
Although Paganism spoke of a 'God' and a 'Goddess', I always saw this as duality, balance, and the harmonious forces of homeostasis which makes life on Earth possible.
The sea and the land, the sun and the moon, rain and fire, air and earth... I grew up with an awe and appreciation for everything which makes life possible; the tilt of the Earth responsible for the seasons, the way wind moves along the equator meaning that it does not suffer radiation burn, the thermal mass of the oceans that creates variations in climate, how each thing has evolved to have its own niche, nothing is wasted, everything is used by nature in a self cycling system.
To me, all these things were 'God' and 'Goddess'. The fact that the Earth provided us with all we needed for survival was enough to leave me in absolute reverence for each breeze, seed and leaf.

When I discovered Permaculture, the science only seemed to back up my awe and inspiration. I started to connect my rituals with collecting herbs, tending to the garden and even working on my designs. Working with Nature is a very sacred act to me.
Celebrating fertility during the months of spring, when all things are being pollinated and mating, and having an understanding within myself that my own ideas will be germinating, ready for the full bloom and busyness of Summer, helps me to align myself with what is going on in the world around me.
We are not separate from Nature, and these practices show me this each day.

Witches, or anyone thought to use magick or practice Herbalism or Earth based spirituality, were burnt at the stake or drowned. The Spanish Inquisition tried to wipe out this form of 'worship', and women were mostly targeted. Now when I think of this, I understand how we have come so far from understanding our place within Nature. Much knowledge was lost during this time, and not just knowledge, but understanding.
It was made illegal to have a relationship with Nature, and I truly believe we are still suffering the repercussions of this time.
Women used to sing, tell stories and practice ritual during gathering and preparing food, and men used to do the same when hunting. The pulse of the planet was felt with each grain plucked from the field, with each arrow that hit its mark, with each mouthful chewed for survival and nourishment.
I think just living is spiritual, if we only take the time to remember, be grateful, and form a relationship with what sustains us.

I wish to ground myself deeper in Nature, using practical Permaculture, Earth Science and Earth Spirituality to understand my place within this chaotic equilibrium of life.
Using Permaculture design to take action, and a connection to the breathe of life, I feel we can really move forward into a regenerative way of living.
Once an understanding of the seasons takes place, and there is a feeling as if each living thing is responsible for the survival of our species, we start to feel a sense of respect for the world around us.
If we were to love each element within an ecosystem and treat it as family, I doubt there would be as much mindless abuse of resources, vegetation and wildlife.

There is no one form of spirituality, nor is there any one right answer to 'save the world'. However, having an understanding of climate and the seasons, whether on a practical or spiritual level, helps keep us in tune with what sustains us.
Practicing this kind of awareness is important to reconnect us to not only the Earths rhythms, but our own.

I recommend starting with Observation. x

If you would like to learn more about Permaculture, Primitive Living and Ritual, and gain a deeper awareness of yourself and the Natural world, please have a look at the 'Sacred Ecology' Course commencing in June 2015, Melbourne Australia.

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Autumn Plants Speak...

Today I was sitting in the comfort of my partners room in the Northern Suburbs of Melbourne after a nourishing weekend with Creative Collectives, as both facilitator and participant.

The rain started to pour heavy, and the icy fingers of winters coming started to dig into my flesh. I was concentrating on my Permaculture Design work I have been unable to do from the tiny house at the Simple Way Project, when someone emailed a video to me about Katrina Blair.

Something has been stirring in me for nearly a decade now, and is starting to grow stronger. As I approach my Saturn return, my biological clock starts to tick. Although it is now for a child... it is for land. For my own land. I do not mean this from an ownership perspective, I guess I mean it from a security perspective. I want to know I can wake up on that same piece of land for years and years to come, that I can plant nut trees and watch small children eat from them one day, that I can plant my medicinal garden and learn from the plants themselves, rather buying dried herbs in bulk....
With each year this yearning grows fiercer within me, and the breeze carries a whisper thats says... 'patience'.

Upon watching that video, sitting in a room in the city on my computer, I have to tell you I almost cried looking at Katrina's farm and hand-built house. I decided I was over sitting at a desk and if I were to feel better I needed to go to the teachers themselves; the plants.
So I braved the cold, putting on boots, wrapping a shawl around me and fetching my basket and trowel.
The wind pricked my cheeks as I trudged along the cement and gravel, the only signs of the rains purpose peeked out from cracks in the pavement, their green leaves reaching for the shielded sun, their roots using the rain to absorb plant nutrients made available by microorganisms.

I went to the community garden around the corner, the signs saying "Please take a look, not a veg". I thought I would assist them with a spot of 'weeding'. The garden was pretty tidy, and I could tell that no one was particularly tending to the weeds for harvest.
I only used trowel to loosen the soil and gravel around the roots, then I used my hands to sensually grasp the root, slippery with clay. This is my favourite part of harvesting the below ground parts in Autumn and Winter... getting messy and being patient to not break the root. This is one of the few things I do have patience for.

Returning home the kitchen was a storm, as it only took me 2 hours to convince myself my day was productive enough.

I had Malabar Spinach seeds, Hawthorn berries (or, Haws in fact), Dandelion leaves and roots, Purslane, Mallow leaves and Chestnuts (I had these in my car from another foraging trip).

First were the Spinach seeds- this variety of spinach is my favourite; a climbing annual with fleshy mucilaginous leaves and beautiful purple seed pods.
To save the seeds I squashed them in my fingers (nothing like getting messy to connect you to the Earth!), placed them in a jar with some water and let the flesh rise to the top and the heavier seeds fall to the bottom. I will then drain the pulp and dry the seeds.
The seed pods make an amazing purple dye, and wanting to take advantage of this I wiped the bench up with the only white thing I could find, a (clean) pair of underwear! Now I have some tie-dyed malabar spinach underwear!

Next I flowed, somehow ferociously, around the kitchen, grinding up Hawthorn berries to make a syrup that will aid anxiety and tonify the heart and arteries. An amazing fact about Hawthorn is that its flowers contain a compound called triethyamine, which is found in semen and vaginal secretions, and is also responsible for the smell of decaying flesh. When the flowers are in bloom they give off a more floral and pheromone-like aroma, where as when they start to wilt and die their smell changes to that of rotting meat. This may seem a little disgusting to some, but for me it really ties the seasons together, and shows how connected Hawthorn is to the process of birth and decay. Its flowers are in bloom during Beltaine (Oct 31st for the Southern Hemisphere), the pagan festival of fertility, love, sex and union, and the Haws show their plump red bodies in Autumn, starting to fade to a deeper blood red by the date of Samhain (May 1st for the Southern Hemisphere), which is the pagan festival of death, decay and introspection. Both these dates are said to be when the veils between worlds are at their thinnest, and were linked with faery magick.
You can see that Hawthorns story is in fact a little deeper than its actions and properties.

 Inspired by the video with Katrina Blair, I decided to make a Dandlion root Chai. Now, although I am currently part of a project which is exploring simple living, I took it upon myself to indulge in the use of a blender whilst in Melbourne. I cut the aerial parts (above ground parts) off the Dandelion and set them aside to make pesto, and washed and peeled the roots.
I placed the roots in a blender with cloves, cardamon, honey, hemp seeds, cinnamon and water. After blending I strained using a piece of muslin cloth, keeping the milk as a refreshing cool drink (not wanting to heat the hemp seeds and render some of the proteins useless) and then used the pulp to make a decoction (simmering the pulp in water, which draws out the constituents of the Dandelion root and makes a less creamy and more 'tea like' chai, rather than a milk).

Next was moving on to make a weed pesto; filled with Dandelion leaves, Mallow leaves, Purslane, Wild Rocket, Almonds, Olive Oil (fresh from David Arnold's Permaculture Farm), Cayenne, Lemon and Peppercorns.
This was also blended (When in Rome...?)

During this kitchen witch whirlwind I roasted the Chestnuts and made some toasted Paleo muesli for my partner, as well as my dinner for the night (Tasmanian Seaweed, Wild Weed Pesto, Tempeh and Greens). 
So, now I can go back to my designs, feeling as though I have connected with the Earth for the day and spent time with the plants which nourish and inspire me.

Its not the same as planting a nut tree on my home land, but it definitely helps.

Friday, 3 April 2015

Sacred Ecology Course

 Something very special has been in the making for a while now; the Sacred Ecology Course.
A collaboration between myself and the epic Claire Dunn, author of My Year Without Matches. This course is a fusion of Primitive Living and Permaculture Skills and Awareness, to help people reconnect with Nature and learn how to exist as part of an Ecology.

A seasonal exploration of the elements; Fire, Air, Water, Earth and Spirit, each season we will be spending a weekend immersed in Nature, learning, observing, using ritual and developing skills to deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.

This course is based on Starhawks book The Earth Path, which each participant will receive a copy of as a kind of textbook. Participants also receive their own small handbound journal, to record their journey through the elements.

I have been visioning this for a long time, ever since I was 15 and read Starhawks book, and I am so happy to be making it a reality, and joining forces with a women like Claire to provide a course like no other.

I look forward to the journey with you- may we start the process I call remembering.

The first seasons focus will be on the Element of Fire, where we will be learning skills such as Primitive Fire making, Fire Vegetation, Winter Medicine, Rocket Stoves and Spoon Carving around the Fire, as well as many nature observation exercises and Ritual that will connect us with our internal Passion and Fire.

For Bookings click HERE. 

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

The Simple Way Project

Exploring Simple Living and Starting a Community Farm

As some of you may know from reading previous posts, in November I applied to start a community farm and explore Simple Living as part of a Documentary being filmed.

It has been a hectic few months, building the tiny house that would be my home in December and moving in in January, designing and implementing the Rainbow Serpent Festival Gardens, driving to Queensland to hold workshops for Earth Frequency Festival, hosting a 2 day Herbalism Course in Melbourne and starting the 2015 Permaculture Design Course, I am now finally grounding down to work more solidly at developing the Community.

This is where I live now. My bed is above, in a loft, with a beautiful little window the rising sun wakes me through. It is still not complete, as we are finishing the Geodesic window and I need to start building a veranda and garden beds.

I am going to get a small wood stove to make tea and medicines in the winter, as my dream is to have an apothecary, where I can dry, store and make herbal medicines!
Hopefully The Perma Pixie will have some amazing hand made products to share after the months of Winter, as I will be grounding down and finishing my Herbal Medicine degree, building a medicinal herb garden and practicing through the art of not only reading, but doing!

This weekend I spent the good part of a day practicing the skills learned with Dr.Elaine Ingham, and made a thermal compost. I absolutely LOVE making compost!
Using straw, grass clippings, lucerne and horse manure I layered the compost using the ratios I had learned (which was tedious, but in a very zen-like way) and watered down each layer.
Now, checking only 2 days later- the compost is steaming!

The satisfaction of a steamy pile of compost!
Currently we shower in the dam, or using a solar shower bag (often filled with cold water), but soon that will become tiresome as the days grow shorter and colder. We will be installing a Rocket Stove hot water shower, and will need to build the shower block.

We are now working on a bicycle powered blender, as I am missing my liquid breakfasts and we are advocating to try and use as little power as possible. Obviously there are transitions as we build things, but we are in Gippsland, and if we ever need a friendly reminder we can just go for a walk up the street and watch the incredible view of the Coal Fired Power Stations, which is enough to solidify why we are doing this.

 In the next few weeks we will be converting the shed into a cozy communal kitchen. The shed will need to be clad and filled with insulation, a sink and grey water system will need to be installed, and a combustion stove for cooking and baking delicious sour dough winter goods will be our main heating source.

The past two months have been mainly spent on the gardens, helping with peoples dwellings and working on the social aspects of the community, such as a two day intro to Holistic Management (a decision making framework), designing, planning and reading books together on group dynamics.

Now we are getting ready for more action!
The superadobe oven has been cobbed and is now ready for its final render layer, although we have already used it 3 times for pizza night with great success. Pizza nights are lovely, we all knead dough on our wooden trestle table overlooking the meadow at sunset, sit by the fire and drink cider that is made on the property by our own 'master brewer'.

Stomping Cob... the muddy job my mum would say I'm born to do!

This weekend we started our outdoor rocket stoves, which will soon be finished and then we can harness the power of fire for all our cooking needs. Rocket stoves are a really efficient use of energy, and are incredibly simple to make.

Rocket Stove using an upside down trough as a stand and old bricks

Cobbing around the Rocket Stove

The two Rocket Stoves nearly finished, the chimney still needs to be built up

I am looking forward to building the Shower block using lots of old windows, planting flowers around the Yurt, baking bread on the combustion stove and generally beautifying everything as the cooler weather sets in.

Before coming to this property and participating in this project I thought I lived quite a 'conscious' and aware lifestyle, but I am happy to be with a bunch of people who constantly inspire me and challenge my ideas of what 'Simple' living really is.

I look forward to many more months of learning, doing, exploring and being.

My best friend, Zero.

Here is an excerpt from our Vision Statement written by Samuel Alexander of the Simplicity Institute. 

You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete. – Buckminster Fuller

Enough, for Everyone, Forever

When one first hears calls for a simpler way, it is easy to think that this new vision must be about hardship and deprivation; that it means going back to the Stone Age, resigning ourselves to a stagnant culture, or being anti-progress. Not so.

Voluntary simplicity liberates us from the burden of pursuing material excess. We simply don’t need so much stuff – certainly not if it comes at the cost of planetary health, social justice, and personal well-being.

Consumerism is a gross failure of imagination, a debilitating addiction that degrades nature and doesn’t even satisfy the universal human craving for meaning.

By contrast, voluntary simplicity refers to a way of life based on very modest material and energy needs but which is nevertheless rich in other dimensions – a life of frugal abundance. It is about creating an economy based on sufficiency, knowing how much is enough to live well, and discovering that enough is plenty.

The lifestyle implications of one planet living are far more radical than the ‘light green’ forms of sustainable consumption that are widely discussed today. Turning off the lights, taking shorter showers, and recycling are all necessary parts of what sustainability will require of us, but these measures are far from enough.

But this does not mean we must live a life of painful sacrifice. Most of our basic needs can be met in quite simple and low-impact ways, while maintaining a high quality of life.

Only by striving for and achieving material sufficiency can there ever be ‘enough, for everyone, forever.’