Grow Love

Grow what you love. Grow it for those you love. Watch the love grow. Nevin and Linda Sweeney have created a suburban oasis and share it with their community. Nevin and Linda started out with a small suburban lot, on the hot plains of western Sydney.

Nevin Sweeney talks about their experiences

With a focus on making their home and community more liveable, Nevin and Linda used Permaculture design to capture water, intensively grow veggies and shade the home and street. Here are some of the tricks Nevin used.

Oasis Loves Water

Water systems support the plants throughout the changing seasons. Nevin “put in about 18 to 19 000 litres worth of rainwater tanks and so part of the water system is making sure that you have efficient means of delivering it. For the annuals we have Ollas and for the perennials we have deep pipe waterers. And these both work remarkably well.

The second part of the water system is the waster water. “So, the shower or bath water goes into our Banana Circle which means the banana circle has gone berserk! It’s at the back of the house so not only has it provided bananas, it has also provided shade on the back of the house. “

Nevins bananas shading the back of their house

“I set up a diversion valve from the house. so when we do the washing up the wash water is diverted into my constructed wetland. And is then used to water trees”. Also, Nevin put together a wide tube that sat on top of the deep pipe watering system. “So, when I’m peeling the veggies and doing the rinsing, the water goes into a bucket. Then, I pour that bucket through the tube, straight down into the ground. I can do this any time of the day. Because that water is going straight underground. There’s no losses, no evaporation at all.”

Nevin starting out on a small, bare hot patch in western Sydney

Design is Key

“This is stuff that without my exposure to permaculture
I wouldn’t have had a clue about.” Nevin Sweeney

Sydney Morning Herald 2020

Outside the Oasis It’s Getting Hotter

The area around Nevin and Linda gets hot. In fact, in 2020 it was the hottest place on the planet. The temperature soared near 50 degrees. [120 Farenheit] Nevin says “it’s staying hotter for longer and the the seasons are changing.”

“What I found was I had a lot of difficulty growing the vegetables that I was used to growing. and so to get around that I covered most of the veggie growing area there are some things that don’t grow well under 50 shade cloth but most do. Although I am very very stubborn, sometimes stuff doesn’t work. Citrus works great but apples don’t. But there’s a lot of stuff (ie sweet potato) that grows really really well.

Nevins  constructed wetland

Microclimate Support

Part of this success is from improved microclimates, part of that is finding the stuff that you like to eat that actually grows. Years ago, Nevin was keen to try some climbing beans. “I’m not a huge fan of beans but the family likes them. And I eat them because I grow them and um I grew them up the side of the tanks and it worked really really well. And I tried to feed them the kids they went nuts saying “not eating that – don’t like them”. And so I went back to growing the shorter dwarf beans. And we’ve been growing that way ever since.

Grow what you love

Grow what you love

So, it doesn’t matter what grows well at your place you – if don’t eat it – there’s not a lot of point in growing it. So, it’s a case of combining what you like to eat and what grows well.

If you grow your own Chokos (Chayote) you can harvest them when they’re small. And then, they’re amazing in a stir fry. They’re crunchy and nutty. And you can add the choko tendrils to the stir fry. Just like Vietnamese cooking.

“Actually, we can produce enough food to feed ourselves comparatively easily if we were prepared to put up with a restricted diet.”

Nevin Sweeney

Chickens Dig It then Retire

Nevin says “In terms of Veggie patches we have 14 veggie patches. And of course, once I learned about chook tractors… I mean they’re an amazing piece of machinery! They do the digging, they do the fertilizing, you get eggs and you get chooks (chickens). Because chooks are fun!

Nevins seedlings in hand-made paper pots


The Cycle Starts With Seedlings

We grow our own seedlings. We plant into a seedling punnet and then into newspaper pots and then into the ground. And that happens all year round. So, that it didn’t matter what time you came to see us here we would have something growing we would have something that’s going off. We’d have something that’s coming up. We’d have the chooks on one part, and areas ready for the chooks. I’ve got to tell you we don’t eat our chooks.
We have a retirement village which is in shade which I keep filled with straw and the chooks there dig that over and turn that into mulch.

Tried and Tested Process

I’ve been using this process for 16 years. Okay, I’ve added a bit of rock dust, a bit of liquid manure and a bit of compost. But for the most part our fertility has been maintained by the chooks”

You can visit Nevin and linda’s site through Sydney Edible Gardens Tours or contact them directly through their webpage underthechokotree.com

Electrifying Moves – Drive Sustainability

Make sure the next vehicle you drive is sustainable. Go electric. Ditch fossil fuels and get an electric car or electric bike. You accelerate adaption. You drive sustainability.

Push your local council for more bike paths and electric buses that will carry bikes to help integrate bike riding with public transport. Put pressure on the grid to encourage investors. This is remarkable age. Renewable energy is now the cheapest source of energy in Australia.

The horse is here to stay, but the automobile
is only a novelty — a fad. [1903]

https://www.autotrader.co.uk/cars/electric/understanding-sustainability-electric-cars/

We at Permaculture Visions have been driving our electric car for 2 years now. The upsides are numerous. It would be disappointing to go back to stopping at smelly petrol stations. And having to drive harder like applying brakes for every time you need to slow down.

Downsides of the EV Drive

But there are still a couple of downsides. The biggest downside is accessing charging stations on busy days in busy areas. The only other downside is the quietness of the car. People are surprisingly slow to react. They see the car but don’t really believe it is moving because it is so quiet. So, future electric cars will have to be noisier.

top challenges for electric cars
https://www.autotrader.co.uk/cars/electric/understanding-sustainability-electric-cars/
https://www.autotrader.co.uk/cars/electric/understanding-sustainability-electric-cars/

Range Anxiety

Worry about making it to the next available charging station is a real concern. Especially on long journeys interstate. A few times now we have had to slow down to 80kms an hour, turn off the heating and radio and watch the dial slowly fall.

In truth, the next charging station may not be working. This is because charging stations break down easily, And they can flood. And parts are expensive. Each fast charging station costs about half a million dollars to install. In contrast, a user only pays about $7 per hour. Factor in the rarity of users in rural areas. So the pay back is slow. As a result, a number of charging stations have been left broken for months. Especially during the pandemic when the parts were slow to be imported.

So, we need to keep enough charge to drive to the following charging station in case the first option fails. Else prepare to stay overnight in a cabin or motel that will allow us to charge. Forget those 4 or 5 star motels, they won’t help unless they have a dedicated charging spot.

Thank you to the caring motels we have discovered. These small 3 star motels often have a humble little 240v power-point in the back of their basement or in the laundry. Overnight, this is sufficient to get us to the next charging station. We chose a small range EV because it was cheaper and we plan for misfortunes. We have become flexible travellers. So, when we get to the finish line we are pleasantly surprised.

https://www.berryrotary.org.au/ourprojects

Smart Towns Drive a Shining Future

Towns like Berry on the south coast of New South Wales are smart, they have a charging station beside the local bowling club, where the markets are held. And it is a quick stroll to their amazing new ROTARY play ground, boutique shops, excellent public toilets and lush picnic area at Avon Park.

Now, all we need to sort out is the design for EV parking and queueing, so that there is less stress and debate between users.

Gift Economy Surprises

Giving can break expectations and enrich relationships. But best of all, the gift economy has the power to manifest system change.

Our presentation tackles the issues surrounding the art of giving.

Giving is system changing because it provides an opportunity to break expectations. Here is the chance to go above and beyond.

Gift Economy Unwraps a Fair Share

One of the principles of permaculture is to share surplus and distribute a fairer share of resources. The gift economy and volunteering are easy ways to give away surplus good and services. It is also a way to show support of others. Being supportive is an undervalued style of giving. By being kind and supportive you won’t get famous. But, help is delivered quickly when and where it is needed.

spoof on superman
Supporting others is a valuable gift

Traditional Gift Economies

Gift giving is a huge part of many cultures and economies. For instance, in Japan it is customary to give a gift to say you are sorry. Or to say welcome or thank you. In fact, it is traditional in Japan to remember the trading of gifts and services. A formal register often records who owes whom. And this register between families and neighbours is often kept for centuries.

In Australia, it is common to give money for a major event like a wedding or to use their bridal registry. But this monetary gift doesn’t explore our relationship with the receiver. In nearly all traditional giving situations we can’t give too much (for fear of making the receiver feel obligated). And we can’t give too little (for fear of looking mean).

But we can be assured that nearly everyone enjoys colourful memories and hearty food.

scratching a back – the gift economy

Gift Economy versus Monetary Economy

The gift economy uses gift giving and services instead of money. Terry Leahy talks about the gift economy as a pathway out of capitalism. So, let’s tackle the elephant in the room -money. Money separates us from our work. And this is evident when we’re buying something. We rarely ever ask “who made this?” Or “Who mined the materials?” Or, “who invented the software?” Yet marketers know that buyers care a lot about who branded the item.

Advertisers know that the look of the product creates an emotional response. And this response overrides many other factors such as the durability efficiency and price. And in all honesty, a car that ‘travels faster than human reaction time’ is not only unsustainable [because it is more likely to crash], it’s lethal. Although it runs on more environmental energy, the real environmental question is “can it sustain itself and sustain life?”

Forest of Tranquility

Money Disregards Environmental Justice

The monetary economy deals poorly with environmental Injustice issues. Yes, we have compensation and legal systems to repay losses. But the monetary system can’t afford to factor in these costs up front, before they happen. And there are a few companies who willingly incorporate environmental and safety quality systems. Only regulation and legal structures encourage us to buy from environmentally responsible quality manufacturers?

Greed is Not the Evil. The Problem is the System Without Ethics

The monetary market requires that companies buy goods cheaply and sell them at a higher price. Terry says “Greed is not the evil here”. Instead, the system is the problem because the monetary system sustains only companies with highest profits it weeds out those who can’t compete. At an individual level we can be ethical in our choices. This makes a difference if we buy direct from the producer because especially when we give feedback. But, as Terry Leahy points out, big companies that make decisions based on ethics, completely destabilise the monetary market.

Make time to serve who we love, not just who we have to - find your place in the gift economy
Make time to serve who we love, not just who we have to – find your place in the gift economy

Hidden Economic Power of Volunteers in Gift Economy

Carers and rescue teams who provide safety nets are nearly all volunteers. The vast collective of volunteers are integral to our recovery and resilience. One in three people in Australia volunteer their time. This is a huge contribution to our economy. Especially through increasing climate change disasters.

Give a Little or a Lot

In the gift economy you can produce as much as you like. There’s no motive to produce unnecessary stuff. And prestige comes from producing stuff that doesn’t damage the environment. Studies by social ecologists such as Terry Leahy revealed two-track thinking. 50 percent of people want a system change like a regulated green economy but only 15 of those people actually vote for it. Because, in the second track of our thinking we’re worrying about jobs, safety comfort and perhaps, even a luxurious retirement or staying in what we see as our normal life even though the planet is not capable of sustaining the normal.

education and child-care, valuable part of the gift economy
finding the wonder of worms

Dive In

Fortunately, the gift economy is the easiest economy to dip your toes into. If you want to have a go at making a change, this is easy. And it’s not going to cost you the earth. Look around and see what you can make, share or give away. And volunteer your time. In 1916, Lily Hardy Hammond wrote about Paying it Forward in her book called In the Garden of Delight . This means, instead of paying somebody back, you give something forward. So when you’re giving gifts of kindness and distributing your wealth on a regular basis you are enriching the world acts of kindness every day.

The Essence of Permaculture

Design at the Core

The essence of our sustainable existence lies in our design. Because all elements within a system crave efficient and meaningful connections.

Emeritus Prof Stuart Hill reminds us that the essence of permaculture is design. He remarked “It really struck me being in an agriculture faculty in a major university there was no teaching about design”.

In this interview, Stuart reflects on the core power of Permaculture. The essence of makes Permaculture unique. Permaculture focuses on design and drives us to build knowledge about all the components within the design and how they interact. We start to see ourselves in the picture, as part of the system. We can also learn from traditional farmers, researchers and build our own observations.

The future of permaculture is in all of our hands. Stuart urges us to expand our knowledge by adding social understanding to our ‘tried and tested work’ on permaculture design.

Epping forest where delegates from Africa and Hong Kong
marvel at the wasted abundance in a major city

Design requires knowledge

In Stuart’s early teaching years “design was taken as given” and practiced as simplified monoculture with some very simple rotations based on inputs and extraction. Instead we need to give attention to the maintenance of the system. He remarks “When I first saw about permaculture and not just permaculture but also the new alchemy institute [who] had also put out a book and report about what was needed in agriculture. And it was the same concept of design.”

What is design?

Stuart explains “So the question about design is what do you include in the design? And where do you put it? When do you put it? How do you manage it? All that requires a considerable amount of knowledge. Whereas when you’re just practicing monoculture you don’t actually need that sort of same level of knowledge.

And design encompasses an understanding of ecological processes. As well as the functions that the different organisms carry out. Also we need an understanding of what these organisms need. As well as understanding about what their interrelationships are and how that varies over time and space. So, there’s not an assumption that you can do anything anywhere, anytime. Instead, we get an understanding that there are things you can do optimally in certain places and at certain times”.

An Ancient Essence

“This appreciation for design takes a certain amount of experience and knowledge to know when and where those those things are. What has particularly what impressed Stuart about permaculture…is that design is the central issue. Other organizations such as biological agriculture, ecological agriculture, organic farming, biodynamic farming, regenerative farming and convergence farming etc. acknowledge the importance of design. But not with the same understanding and central focus that permaculture does.

David Holmgren‘s list of principles demonstrates the essential core of design. And Stuart notes that we “would only add to his list in terms of the psychological so my take is that our internal permaculture is a foundation for external permaculture. And that has been neglected I think in conventional permaculture until fairly recently. A few people have been acknowledging this you know the whole concept of polyculture systems and succession.”

Design is an Ancient Practice

Indigenous cultures, particularly in the tropics, understand the power of design. Stuart recalls “When I when I worked in Trinidad coffee and cocoa was grown under flame trees which provided shade for them. And they got more optimal production when they had a certain amount of shade. And north American Indians planted squash and beans and corn together. So the beans captured Nitrogen for the corn and the squash grew up the corn as a support. There are lots and lots of those sort of examples. And also, in terms of rotations, moving crops so you don’t follow the same crop year after year. And there are certain things that you can’t follow because something leaves a toxin in the soil that affects the subsequent crop. So, all that sort of knowledge is quite essential.” This creates the essence of sustainable design.