Give Yourself Skills, Peace and Joy

Give yourself a break over the new year. And develop some living skills to reduce costs and increase your wellbeing. These skills build a regenerative culture that is rich in social connections and well being.

A chicken fairy god mother
Be a green fairy god-mother.

10 Fundamental Permaculture Living Skills

  1. Live with principles
  2. Get clean energy
  3. Cut the waste
  4. Use resources well
  5. Build biodiversity
  6. Breathe cleaner air
  7. Save water
  8. Creatively Make-do
  9. Invest in Social justice
  10. Start positive

1. Apply Permaculture Principles

Apply Permaculture Principles to Everyday Life. Multiple functions for each element in the design is a key principle. “If I can’t get at least 3 reasons for having something, I’m not having it.” says Permaculture Elder Judith Collins. And then, integrate the elements, so that nothing sits alone in the system. Everything connects and contributes to the other things. For example, the bushes shade the paths. These paths are shaped to direct water. The water nurtures the garden. The garden attracts birds and insects. This give us joy. Then, we share joy and food with others.

This also applies to skills. These skills have many uses beyond the home. They can be applied in the workplace and for the good on your community.

2. Get Smarter Energy

https://www.saulgriffith.com/ promotes electricification for better future universal energy systems

Change to better energy sources such as solar systems. Saul Griffith explains how electrifying our energy network builds better future energy systems for all.

Permaculture Elder, Judith Collins EarthKeepers, Buxton, NSW

3. Cut the Waste – Stop Buying Stuff! And Grow

Judith Collins of EarthKeepers challenges us to know where our food comes. And if you really need to buy something, check out local makers and support the markets rather than so called ‘super-markets’. And farmer Gerard Lawry at EagleRiseFarm points out “There is no co-incidence that the supermarkets present their fresh foods to look like market stalls”.

4. Use Resources Well

Now that you have decided what to waste cut, look to see what other waste materials from the home can be converted. Identify and reduce your waste by conducting a home audit.

If you don’t have much space, you can use Bokashi to convert your food scraps, if you have a balcony, then you have room for a worm farm. If you have a garden, there is room for worms, compost and chickens. Grow food in wicking pots or rain gardens.

Utilise things more by saving the seed from the foods you eat. Get creative by repurposing stuff that you can no longer use. Mend, redesign your clothes. Then when they are finally no longer useful, compost them.

5. Build biodiversity

Design your life to blend with the surrounding wildlife. Build awareness of the natural world. Stop to smell the roses or Boronia. Find the unique perfumes of native plants. Create space in your domain for wildlife.

6. Cut the Chemicals – Breathe Less Toxins

Stop polluting your home. Cut out chemicals by using low toxic cleaners. You can easily make your own cleaning fluids. In fact, vinegar and sodium bicarbonate will clean nearly everything. Another permaculture principle is to start small so you can feel successful. You can do this right now, in your home. Try sprouts, food and herbs, and making your own vinegar. For outside the home, try minimal disturbance techniques to handle weeds. Get to know how nature works and work with her.

strawberry guava

7. Save Water

Saving water is vital because clean water is a valuable resource during dry periods. Plants and animals depend on clean rain water. So do the river systems. We can contribute to the healthy rivers by building carbon in the soil, planting trees and supporting insect life. A basic start would be to create birdbaths. Next, install rain gardens. Catch and store rainwater in a tank or direct it to a pool. Something that takes a bit more research but is radical and resourceful is to install a compost toilet and an outdoor shower.

redirect path water to reduce erosion

8. Get Creative and Make-Do

There are various types of waste. And this includes having too much stuff because stuff demands requires storage and maintenance. Other forms include wasted opportunities.

Simple steps to cut waste are to seal out drafts. Mend things like leaking taps or frayed clothes. Learn to use basic tools, how to sew, tie knots and make do.

Above all, walk, cycle and use public transport. These simple steps keep us fit and reject the the fossil fuel industry. Plan to make your next car an electric car.

cockatoo dropping a macadamia nut
cockatoo enjoying a macadamia nut

9. Invest time and effort in others

Invest in a Circular economy by spending your money on products and services that are created locally. This builds social justice. Social justice is a vital part of reducing the pressures on our planet. Without social justice, we get more pollution, more harmful chemical use and more frequent environmental destruction through wars.

Be generous and kind. Fix stuff before you give it to charity. And be generous. Better still, fix things for others. Repair cafes are wonderful ways to link skilled retirees with young people in need. Better still, show a young person how to do stuff. Or help a local family that needs a hand. Have an informal meeting with neighbours and find out what your community needs and has the passion to do.

10. Start Positive, Act Now

Knowing how and where to start is a skill in itself. Stuart Hill recommends we do one thing before we go to bed that will move us closer to our goals. Starting small is one way to achieve this. He encourages us to take action by refreshing our mindset. This enables us to make bigger changes. If it requires us to lie boldly to ourselves about what we can achieve, then do it.

SPECIAL POST – Why Onion Makes Us Cry

Juliana Mitry, tells a folk tale about why the onion makes us cry. Juliana owns Balinese Spice Magic in Wollongong and hand-crafts Tempeh.

In this short video, Jules relates the Balinese story of why we cry when we cut onions and how soft and sweet it is. Juliana grew up in the Mountains in Bali, with an amazing array of homegrown food and spices.

A tale of social justice, the Balinese way.

You know why you’re always sad every time you grind onion? My mom told me it’s because onion and garlic used to be sisters. Can I tell you a story? yeah! There used to be sisters called Bawang. and Kasuna. Bawang is the onion and Kasuna is garlic. Onion is the older sister. So, she used to do all the work and Kasuno is the white sister. She’s done nothing but pamper herself. “

One day the mother went to the market so the mother said ‘Okay, you two girls, you have to do work today. If you do a good job, I’ll give you a treat. I’ll buy you some cakes and new stuff from the markets. And mum says to Onion, what do you want? and she says ‘that’s fine mummy, as long as you get home, I’m fine. and the second sister said ‘I need new clothes and I need everything new. So, the mother went.’

So, the big sister basically did everything. Starting from getting the putty out to the yard and then pounding it to get the seeds out. And then dry it in the sun and and pounding to get this just the husk off the rice. She basically done everything cleaned the house and then went to the river [this is cutting the story short].

Garlic delays, Onion works straight away

Every time she (onion) asks a sister to help the sister says “okay! you do that part I’ll do the other part”… “you do that part I’ll do the other parts”. It is always all the same answers. So, Bawang, being such a nice girl she thinks “I’ll do it because it’s just easier than waiting for Kasuna to do it”.

“Then the mother came home and there’s still you know like a one part that of the onion left behind. It was putting the rubbish out. But then Kasuna says I’ll make sure that I do that because you’ve done everything. I haven’t done anything. I’ll do that!” So, onion agrees “okay I’ll leave you that. And she went to the river, washed the clothes and everything’s been dirty because she’s doing all the work herself.

Picking banana leaves for cooking wraps

When garlic hears her mum coming she sits herself in all this husk (the rubbish) and started crying. She was pretending that she did all the work and that the big sister never did anything. “

The sad thing was that poor onion got beaten and kicked out of the house. This is why you feel her sadness. But it a positive story because it’s has good karma, like in like most of Asian stories. The stories always support what is right. The Karma is because onion’s done good and she fell asleep under a tree, a magical bird calls her. ‘wake up, wake up little one, why are you sleeping here? Onion said ‘life took a really bad turn for me and nothing I do is right! “

learning to glaze old windows save a lot of money and provides opportunities to be creative.

The bird says ‘because you look so sad, I’ll give you a treat like you can ask for you whatever you want’. Onion says ‘I just want a home’. The bird asks her to sing for me? The bird blesses her and brings her to the grandmother.

Check out the variety of talks from the Permaculture Community on our Youtube channel.

Growing Food Indoors

A Great Indoor Permaculture Adventure

Growing food indoors is easy, costs very little and gives us immediate health benefits. 

Like most things we do in Permaculture, there are multiple benefits to every action. Growing food indoors cuts our waste and supplies nutritious food. And indoor permaculture also provides opportunities for design practice, mindfulness, and self-reliance. And we can surround ourselves with naturally cleaned air.

Quick Design Tools For Indoor Food Production

Indoor food growing benefits from a these permaculture design principles:  Zoning, Stacking and Mindfulness through Observation.

Indoor Food Zones

When we design a Permaculture project, we set aside zones according to how often we will use something. Items that need a lot of care or provide us with lots of interaction and reward go into Zone 1. The items that don’t need much attention or prefer we ignore them go into the furthest recesses of our space.

Zone 1 – Your Nursery

Rooms with sunlight deserve to be decorated with young plants. The indoor garden ‘nursery’ houses your new seedlings and chitting off-cuts. Growing food indoors is easy if you simply buy plants. However, you can raise a lot of plants without expense by propagating from the foods you buy at the grocery store.

Zone 2 – Shrubbery

Smaller plants include Aloe Vera, spring onions, Peppermint, Ginger, Turmeric, KangKong, Thai Basil, tiny Tomatoes, Chives, Garlic chives (essential for savoury pancakes) and Sweet Potato. Medium size plants include Taro, Monstera Deliciosa and Sugarcane. The easiest plants to grow are those that thrive in muddy water. Sugarcane, Peppermint and spring onions will grow in water.

Position each plant according to how much sunlight it needs. As a general rule, the lighter the leaf of a plant then the more sunlight it needs. Those plants with dark-coloured leaves tolerate shade. 

Zone 3 – ‘Canopy’ Trees

There are some larger plants that thrive indoors. These include Fig, Coffee bushes, Lime tree, Mulberry, Curry Leaf, Banana and Bamboo. Banana plants are quick growing and the leaves are useful to wrap foods. Bamboo is a delightful tea rich in Silicone to make your hair shine. Zone 3 plants need to be back from the window, allowing the littler shrubbery and nursery sufficient access.

Big plants need big pots otherwise the tall plants fall over. However, big pots don’t have to be dragged into the home. Here’s a lighter trick you can use. Keep your larger potted plants in a snug bucket of water and drill a hole in the side of the bucket at the level of the bottom of the pot. There are varieties of wicking pots to try. Wicking pots are heavy because they hold water underneath the suspended potted plant. Additionally, closed wicking pots conserve water and because the water is not open to the air, they do not encourage mosquitos.

Sweet tiny banana grown in Mt Kembla
Sweet tiny banana

Zone 4 – Productive Dark Pockets

Areas in the home that are dark are ideal for ferments, sprouts and mushrooms. South Korea still has tunnels that were used during the war. Each soldier was issued with bean seeds to sprouts whilst they were underground. Luckily, sprouts are more nutritious than the seed by itself

Dark areas can also include an indoor worm farm. However, for good hygiene practices, keep food products such as the mushroom farm in a separate room from waste processing such as Bokashi or worm-farm.

Zone 5 – Keeping a Healthy Wilderness

Dust balls, insects and fungi will still reside in your home. You can still keep the home clean as well as keeping it green. The easiest way to remove bugs is by vacuuming. If you need to spray pests, use Methylated spirits. On the whole, there are fewer pests on indoor plants than outdoors plants. The key to good pest control is diversity. Have a wide variety of plants and avoid monocropping.

Stacking

Stacking your potted plants is a great way to save space and water. Simply put small pots on the surface of larger pots. The smaller pots can drain into the bigger pot, and provide some cooling mulch. The little pots will also enjoy the lift, getting closer to any natural light. If you only have a high window, you can hang pots. As the plant grows you slowly lower the pot. This is particularly useful for growing vines such as grapevine.

Stacking is a utilised in our indoor worm-farm. The upper level is a potted herb, the next level down contains the worm farm. At the bottom is a reservoir holding the fertilised water.

Mindfulness and Mental Vigour

The act of caring for something (such as our favourite food plant) improves our mental well being. Seeing the progress of our seeds is a slow yet rewarding mindful exercise.

Best of all, an indoor plant is a gentle reminder of our own need for natural light and regular water. When the plant is happy, the conditions are better for us too.

Integrated Technology 7000 yrs+

a Chinese kang uses small twigs to cook food and heat the bed

Rocket Stove Powering On

Get Hot Chow With Low Costs

Rocket stoves are super efficient. All you need is a bundle of sticks or dried cobs to cook dinner for the whole family.  Best of all, this fuel is easy to find. There’s no need to chop down trees or burn fossil fuel.

Last month we went on a great adventure shaoying from shaoyingtours.comstaying in an ancient village in the Shandong province of north-eastern China. We went with fellow Australian, Shoaying. She grew up in rural China and has expertise in Permaculture and Environment Management.

Shoaying is patient, knowledgeable, well-organised and fun. We were keen to see early stove technology known as the Kang.  April and Shaoying on Mulberry Island - shaoyingtours.comOur Permaculture courses demonstrate the use of integrated technologies such as a hybrid Rocket stove.

According to research at Tongji University, “The Chinese Kang is an ancient integrated home system for cooking, sleeping, domestic heating and ventilation. It is still widely used today in nearly 85% of rural homes in northern China. In 2004, there were 67 million Kangs used by 175 million people.”

Archeologists have found Kangs from 7,000 years ago. The Kang is still cooking, heating, drying herbs and garments and ventilating millions of homes everyday.  Ingeniously, the flue of the stove fans out underneath the big family bed in the next room before rising up a chimney in the next wall.  The warmth must be a joy when it is snowing outside and fuel is low.

Unfortunately, the Chinese Kang is in slow decline due to intense urbanisation. Given that each household uses approximately 4kg of poor quality fuel, a small city of a million people would need to bring in 4,000 tonnes of fuel each day and dispose or reuse the ash. This would incur a transportation and network cost. Not to mention the need to redesign existing urban buildings to incorporate chimneys.

However, more efficient rocket-stoves are growing in popularity in other rural and sub-urban areas of the world.

Ancient Rocket Stove Technology hasn't changed much - shaoyingtours.com

What Is A Rocket Stove?

Essentially, a Rocket Stove has well-engineered air flow, there is a J bend to the chimney and  good insulation to increase combustion temperatures. The hottest spot in a rocket stove is not at the flame, it is a little further up where the gases get fully party. As a result, the gases burn off furiously, whipping around in circles before they go up the chimney. A modern rocket stove sounds like a primitive turbo. To get this effect, it has a very good air intake and an elbow in the chimney. The fuel sits on a grate letting the air rush up from underneath. The combustion chamber is underneath the cookplate. In many other wood stoves, a lot of the heat flies away up the chimney.  The rocket stove intensifies the burn then concentrates energy directly at the pan.

Today, science is building toward a standard for the term ‘Rocket’ stove.  Because there is a tiny-sized, yet big difference between a modern Rocket stove [or Rocket-mass heater] the ancient Kang.  The modern Rocket stove has an insulated post-combustion chamber (technical term for a space between the flametips and the cookplate). This chamber intensifies the burn and reduces potential pollutants.  In addition to this technical development, a moving cowl would increase the Venturi effect of the chimney.

Insulation Builds Intensification

Insulation in a firebox is vital for conserving energy. As a result, the outer area of the stove stays cool. Only the flue heats up. In well insulated stoves, the energy is concentrated on the cook-top.  In China, locally made mud-straw bricks surround their stoves.  Sand or ash in the mud-brick can ensure even higher insulation-rates.  The Kang utilises the residual chimney heat. The chimney gases travel from the cooktop through the wall and fan out along a set of tunnels under the bed in the next room, then up a chimney on the next wall. Unlike the insulated stove, the bed has plenty of thermal mass, and the mattress is thin. So, the bed is toasty warm up by the time the dishes are washed.

Stove Fuel Resourcefulness

dumplings on rocket stove - shaoyingtours.com

Fuel is easy to find for the stove. For instance, most people burn a bundle of prunings from local orchards or stalks from the corn and wheat fields. In addition to these, dried corncobs  (after the juicy kernels have been removed) combust very well.  Each house has a collection of little bundles of sticks at their door and sunning on the roof.   Corn husks (the papery outer layer) are a convenient, easy, biodegradable material. Perfect to wrap the dumplings.  Also, rinsing and drying the wrappers enables easy re-use. Finally, these used wrappers become great starter-fuel for the stove.

steamed buns from rocket stove - shaoyingtours.com

Northern Chinese Kang Stoves are very adaptable. You can cook fish or soup at the bottom of the giant wok and stick corn cakes to the sloping sides. Alternatively, you can use water in the base and insert a grid at half way up to steam foods like the dumplings. The video shows how to make glass noodles.  Rocket Stove cuisine of Northern China doesn’t bake or grill foods. In summary, closed cook-pans with quick cook times are more efficient.

At the end of the day, home-made Mooncakes taste wonderful when steam-baked on a kang stove, the traditional way.

By the way, we have a
Permaculture Design Weekend Course
– Nov17th and Nov18th
come and join us!