Going Bananas –

Get Some Real Banana Bread

One of the greatest challenges for building a sustainable culture is learning to eat what the climate and soil want to grow and not forcing it to produce what our culture is accustomed to eating.  During the recent ‘Hunger Period’ when Cuba was is economic turmoil, the locals grew food on street corners and in government city farms. The power of that community was celebrated yet Cubans hung on dearly to a cultural remnant called white bread. Bananas grew everywhere during that time and still they grace street corners because nobody needs to remove them. (See tips below on how to grow or remove them).

Home-grown Special

Given that most people around the world can grow bananas and most can keep hens or quail for eggs (if you can keep a cat or a dog, you can find a way to keep quail). Imagine growing and cooking pancakes from your own garden on your home-fuelled stove.

Green Banana Great Cooking

Bananas, green or yellow, make a great flour.  In addition, it is gluten-free and full of nutrients. Real Banana Pancakes are super easy. Basically use two eggs for each banana and add milks or spices to your tasting.

Use It or Share It

In our warm temperate permaculture garden we have designed some micro-climates that the bananas love. And best of all our bananas ripen in winter! Winter is usually a lean time our food forest so this abundance is enjoyed. We have thousands of bananas which we readily share. but now we know how to use up the green banana, we can enjoy more of the crop.

The other abundant crop here in winter is from the Rocoto Chilli trees.  No typical western recipe springs to mind to combine these two delicious resources. Green Banana + chillis = Cayeye and Cabeza de Gato (Colombian Mashed Green Plantain) with home-made Salsa on the side. Yum.

Green Bananas of any variety can substitute for plantain in most recipes. If you want a quick and yummy snack, you can make green banana crisps. simply slice the green banana, salt it then fry it.  This fast food will keep for weeks because it dries out crisp as it cools.  Alternatively, you can dry your bananas in a solar dryer.

Want A Banana Beer With Your Banana Fries?

The passionate and experienced researcher, Bruce French, has studied the amazing array of produce from rare and under-appreciated food plants. Before you get into the beer, find out more about the benefits of a range of banana ferments.

There are many recipes out there for banana beers. Most use a cereal crop such as maize to get it going, but anything once living will ferment. If you are keen to make pure banana beer beware it just may take a few conventional beers prior to get the stamina to like it.

Bananas are Tough

In all honesty, in good soil and mild climates, Bananas are hard to remove. If you need to remove them simply dig up the pups to give to other people, cut the main stems with a bread-knife, cover the area with an old tarpaulin, you can cover that with mulch and potted plants for a year.

Did you know?

Did you know that the banana stool is not a tree? Bananas are a herb. In fact, it is the tallest flowering herb.

Bananas are more than just a lunchtime companion. Every part of the banana is useful. For permaculture designs, the banana is a great erosion stabliser, good to grow on fast eroding banks and in gullies and shallow or intermittent water courses to slow the water down. They have a tendency to travel slowly over the years because the new pups need to grow in the shelter of their parent. Each mature banana stool will only fruit once so you can chop it down and feed it to the poultry, or a worm farm, use it as mulch or garden edge. With some practice you can cut tall fruiting stems whilst keeping the stem vertical. This way,  the bunch is not damaged as you chop. This also means you don’t need a ladder to access a big bunch.

Design To Exclude Wind

The biggest thing that will limit your crop is wind. Wind rips at their leaves, reduces the local moisture available to their roots and can spread disease. Bananas love sun-traps. In your permaculture design, sun-traps have multiple functions.

Sadly, the main threat to commercial Bananas worldwide is disease. So, check that you are not violating agricultural restrictions. These restrictions are there to limit the spread of disease.  The modern banana was predicted to become extinct by 2020, but we can all help turn that around by choosing unusual, organic and less than perfect varieties when we shop. Diversity is the key to our resilience.

And Wait, There’s More!

Nothing need go to waste from a banana plant. The leaves can be used for fencing, temporary roofing, bedding in the hen house, even as a compostable umbrella. Many people cook foods in the leaves and big leaves are a beautiful throw-away platter.  It is also possible to make paper out of the banana fibers. This video shows a school girl making banana paper.

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‘Drama-Greens’: Infinite Play

Introducing A Resilient Culture

Permaculture goes beyond garden design. It is holistic cultural systems design. Drama is a key channel for building resilience.

Cultures build resilience through drama by:

    • having an ethical core of caring
    • recognising, expressing and responding to the signs of change
    • using non-renewable resources with careBe surprised
    • making great use of biological and recycled resources eg. Outdoor theatres with living plants as the wings and back-drop.
    • keeping stores for bad times. Set ticket prices at a fair level to be able to serve the wider community yet save for a rainy season.
    • being current – dramatise current events, people and ideas. Revitalise historical content to make it relevant to the modern audience.
    • sharing fairly.  Make sure the profits support the creators, the workers and the venue to ensure long-term viability
    • valuing the holistic nature of community (the wider community and the artistic community). Collaborate with other organisations to ensure optimum use of your site and staff.
    • acknowledging resource limits. Don’t try take on too many issues – keep the message clear and the goals achievable
    • valuing creative adaptations (like promoting barter, volunteer helpers or regional economics)
    • listening to elders. Involve elders in creative processes
    • seeking traditional know-how. Rediscover traditional processes, story-telling, music and costuming
    • communicating and sharing feelings, knowledge and resources.

Theatre – a vital part of culture

rooster-crowFor thousands of years, drama has been a valuable tool for a community to communicate and share knowledge. Theatres bring people together. For many tribal communities, Theatrical drama has been one of the most successful tools for consulting one-another and passing information.

Another useful feature of theatre is the promotion co-operation rather than competition. Seeking co-operation is a fundamental permaculture principle. When we work in co-operation with one another we can find peaceful resolutions. Peace offers stability. Stability offers sustainability.

In the Chikukwa project they use role play drama to teach one another how to create a permaculture garden.

Encore!

How can we get more play-acting, drama and theatre in our culture?

Support live performances

This does require an effort to get up off the couch, dress up and go to a live venue. In some towns, there is very little live drama or music left. TV, radio and the internet have replaced live performances. People work long hours and live too far from the hub of society.  But the trends can be reversed. We can make a special effort to get to the theatre and value the spontaneity, talent and energy required to make live theatre magical.

Make Your Own Performances Spaces

Theatrical spaces can be low tech. They can be outdoor theatre spaces. Try your own living space for entertaining others. Ask you favourite artists to do a home-concert or play. If you are a performer – a great way to earn extra support is to offer exclusive concerts for small audiences.

chicken-with-pearl-earingDramatise  Your World

Reading aloud, acting out, role-play, story telling, puppetry and games can enrich your time with others, especially  children. Let them lead your creativity.

Celebrate the beauty of nature and relationships with photographs, blogs, play and song. Each moment we spend engaging in drama or creative play is richer than time wandering aimlessly as a consumer.

Engage In ‘Dream-time’

Explore the world of your own imagination. Write, make music, dance, speak and sing. Seek others to enjoy your active entertainment.

Design An Amazing Outdoor Theatre

In permaculture we aim have multi-functional elements in a site design. We can create multifunctional spaces. A sloped site can be used for outdoor performances, lectures, workshops. It can be designed to harvest water, provide fertile growing space and evenly distributed solar access.

Low, intensive garden beds can be created along the contour of the slope. These beds can catch and store water. Seating can be positioned on the stage side. Paths function as seating area for patrons as well as the water.

Storm water can be harvested in a pond at the base of the sloped seating. The pond will also serve to bounce sound and reflect light. A flat area at the bottom of the garden can serve as a stage or teaching space.  In traditional roman-style theatres the stage is at the bottom of the incline. This style offers good acoustics and views.

Permaculture design for community garden

Do I Need A Rooster?

A Rooster – An Optional Extra

You don’t need a rooster (male chicken) in your flock.  Your hens (females) will live happily without a rooster. Sometimes, a rooster is handy to guard the flock and help solve problems.  But when the claws are out, a rooster is no real protection against predators like wild dogs, quolls, wild cats and foxes.

rooster-defend-chick

A rooster can be a gentle leader. A good rooster helps finds food and he eats after the hens have eaten. A kind rooster will check out the nests for suitability and he sometimes pretends to lay in his efforts to assure the hens. Some roosters may be brave and put themselves in danger to protect his flock.

But beware, many roosters are simply mean and selfish.

Breeding Your Own Chickens

chicken-with-chicksIf you wish to breed your own chickens, you can get a rooster or you can buy fertile eggs.  The main strategy of a breeding program should be to keep the loyal and gentle roosters. Don’t judge a rooster on looks alone. Even if you choose a quiet one, his gentle nature can change if he gets stressed. Watch for aggression and be prepared to cull.

Complicated Relationships

rooster-crow-234x300

Roosters and hens have very complicated relationships.  A rooster will sometimes lie to his hens, clucking the signal “I’ve found food” when actually, he has not found any food and is just drawing them nearer. In these moments the rooster takes advantage of the temporarily puzzled and distracted hen and will mate with her.  The amazing flip-side of this is that the hens nearly always know they are being lied to but choose to play along.

If you are keeping hens in a protected space, safe from dogs and foxes, you don’t need a rooster.  Hens are very happy to lay eggs without having the complication of a rooster.

If you have a rooster, it can be harder to find their hens nests. The hens can go broody often, loose weight and lay less eggs. All the eggs will need careful monitoring for freshness. Be careful, fertile eggs can be laid weeks after a rooster is gone.

World Peace Starts at Home

Few people enjoy the sound of a rooster crowing in the morning. There are laws against these pesky noise disturbances. Find out the laws. If you can’t have a rooster, support a local breeder instead. There are lots of conscientious breeders like Avonstour in New Zealand who would love your support. If you want to breed quiet poultry, breed quail instead.

one word - great

The Permaculture Rooster Works Hard

The Permaculture Rooster has many functions. He keeps alert for dogs, cats, snakes and eagles. He searches for new foods and suitable dust-bathing places. He is hot on the heels of the keeper each morning. He pays attention to where the weed-clearing is to be conducted and will return during the day in case he missed something. [The keeper is careful to define the work-space by throwing some seed or food-scraps]. The keeper can call the rooster when he is needed and the brood will follow.

chickens-weedingThe permaculture rooster works hard in the garden with the flock. He also listens and responds to distress calls from laying hens. He enjoys hiding in the bushes when the flock are resting or taking a bath. The permaculture rooster is camouflaged and on guard in the bushes. He is agile, fit and trim (not so great for eating) and smart.

A happy rooster can live a full 8 or 10 years.  The rooster maintains his dignity yet lets the keeper attend to him if he gets sick or injured. But like all great gurus, he will slow down, and eventually hand over the reins to a younger guy.  When his time is up, his body will make great fertiliser for a young tree. He needs to buried deep so the fox can’t find him.

Gentle Genes Live On

chick_egg

The chicken is one of the most well-traveled, cuddly and functional companions of the human race. The beauty of the chicken in a garden system is it will eat stuff we can’t and shouldn’t eat [like maggots and centipedes].  Chickens can turn also pests into eggs.

The humble egg is the most nutritious source of protein in the garden.
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Getting Into The Permaculture Zone

Permaculture Zoning

This permaculture design was created by April 15 years ago and has travelled the world extensively. It has been used to promote courses and workshops in many countries.
zones are used in permaculture design

Zoning isn’t something you do on a yoga mat but it can be used to design anything from a farm, a work station, garden, home, kitchen, caravan, tent, luggage, handbag or even a wallet.

Zoning is a Permaculture design technique that positions the elements (like herbs, trees, chicken house) in our design in areas according to their need or our use. The greater the needs or use of the element, then the closer we place it.

The beauty of Zoning is its flexibility. This design tool is scale-able.

The design tool called Zoning can be applied on large farms, city apartments, urban homes,  kitchen design,  and even in the design or re-design of a little bag. (You can redesign a bag by inserting pockets, wallets or compartments. In the same way we can re-design a property by using fencing for the zones).

A Little Bag of Zones

Many bags have the knack of swallowing items and scrambling them.  That’s because they are not designed for function but usually for looks. We can apply the design technique of zoning to the re-organisation of a bag (a handbag, a sports-bag or regularly used luggage).  Everyday important items such as keys, phone, and medicine would be kept in upper pockets or pouches (the Zone 1 are) and less regularly used items would be allowed to sink into lower Zones. Finally, the forgotten items will drift into the far recesses of the bag.

handbags can have design zones too

It’s not us – it’s them!

Not all items that we need will like being kept in easy reach, in Zone 0. It might seem wonderful to have a tree that produced fruit salad or a herb garden that gave us all our favourite herbs. The reality is, not all fruit likes full sunlight, and not all herbs like to grow in pots. Sometimes the best zone for an element is determined by the needs of that particular element.

Zoning The Herbs

hills_hoistarium

When we use herbs regularly, like our tea herbs, we can keep some of them in easy reach by planting them in pots on the kitchen window sill in (Zone 0). This suits the peppermint but not really a green tea bush which prefers space to grow into a small tree and likes to live on the edge of the forest (Zone 3). Other herbs might only be available when in season (like Coriander), and prefer a protected nook in Zone 2. Exotic herbs like Ginger and the bay tree might need to grow in the forest so we plant them in Zone 4. The herbs in Zone 5 could include rare indigenous herbs.

Zoning On a Bigger Scale

zones-picIn a larger scale Permaculture design we break the design up into Zones according to the amount of attention and space each area requires:
Zone 0. The Home. Indoor production (sprouts/ferments) and processing of food, waste,
water collection, repairs and education.
Zone 1.  The area outdoors that needing regular observation, tending and harvesting
eg. plants we can browse and use each day.- intensive garden beds with keyhole access.
Zone 2. This area has less intensive managed areas but with animals needing daily attention eg. poultry, rabbits, worm farm, snail farm. Orchard trees.
Zone 3. Occasionally visited areas with self-fed animals (stock) and seasonal wide-ranging crops eg. corn, wheat, rice, pumpkin, bamboo.
Zone 4. Wild food gathering (eg. nuts, native fruits) Wood for Fuel, self seeding trees.
Zone 5. A Natural area – a rarely visited area. This zone is best linked with neighbouring wildlife corridors. This can be sometimes managed to reduce risk of catastrophes ie. fire, pollution, drought or hurricanes.
Zone 6: The greater bio-region or social context.

Zoning is a powerful permaculture design tool. It is used in conjunction with other design tools such as sector planning, analysis of elements and connecting the relationships of elements.  Learn more about Permaculture. Enjoy doing a Permaculture Design Course with us!

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