Permaqueer – Isn’t They Lovely

Guy Ritani knows permaculture design is limited only by the imagination of the designer and our society. That’s how Permaqueer enriches us. Guy runs Permaqueer with their partner to facilitate access for lesbian, gay bisexual transsexual, asexual LGBTQIA plus and bipod communities.

Our interview with Guy Ritani of Permaqueer

‘The Edge Is Where It’s At’

Guy has discovered that the queer community “sits on the fringe, on the edge of society” with unique perspectives. “And a lot of the systems don’t necessarily cater to our ways of being.. our ways of knowing… our ways of relating. The spaces that our community sits in is typically in the cracks and the edges of the system. What we’ve realized is that getting feedback and designing from the cracks manages to close those cracks”. Inclusivity makes that system more resilient and makes the society more resilient.

‘We know in permaculture that we need a vast diversity of organisms interacting in a rich ecosystem. And that’s the same in social spheres’ says Guy. Yet, we are conditioned in our society to have certain beliefs and understandings about how society should work.

Pink, Blue or Rainbow?

Permaqueer call these sets of expectation Binaries. “so it’s one or the other – it’s hot or cold… it’s rich or poor, when in reality there’s a whole spectrum of how things exist, as you know. It’s not just a top canopy and ground cover. But we see many things in between and all the insects and animals that interact within the forest.

A lot of assumptions exist in our society predicated from these binaries. They are as restrictive as monocultures in agriculture. There is cross-pollination, growth, diversity and resilience. To gain abundance we need complexity. If we stay rigid in social ‘monocultures of thought’ we miss opportunities for growth.

Beyond Our Binaries

Permaqueer explores the binaries. Firstly, and most obvious is the binary of gender. This about the individual unit that’s about our personal zone. That’s about how we relate to ourselves and it’s about how we relate to others. We know this horrific history of gendered roles and rights to women and there’s also horrific implications of toxic patriarchy. Above all, we see this binary in horrible roles and ideals of how women and men should be. Yet, in reality, we’re all just people with inherent qualities.

We need to shed a lot more light on this gender issue because it drives our culture of destruction and extraction. At the core of this we need to start inspecting our culture on a systemic level.

It takes education initially to understand you know what are these queers talking about. They’re wearing makeup and earrings and women’s dresses and maybe that appears a bit ridiculous. But, we see a lot of the systems aren’t working. We know how damaging they are.


Making of A Non-Violent Culture

We’re seeing a younger generation not wanting to identify with any of that. And actually, they’re discovering an exciting, beautiful and amazing space of love and expression. They feel accepted by others in a space that doesn’t align to toxic behaviors and simplified ‘monocultures of thought’.

On one hand, it’s about personal identity. But it’s also about disassociating with damaging behaviours that are causing climate change and violence against women and children.

Dragon of climate change

Honesty and Integrity

After is the issue of personal identification comes the concept of sex and gender. This is something widely misunderstood. Gender and sex are different you know how we choose to identify and express ourselves. Guy is gender-fluid. at one stage Guy was Sarah with supportive parents saying “you do you sarah”. Throughout Guy’s life gender never really mattered. “I’ve never run into issues until I come across people that are very set in this binary. And they think ‘hey! you’re not doing the things that you’re meant to do’. They go “I need to bully you. I need you to change.” To Guy, they are being the weird ones. Because there’s no reason to be nasty or horrible to people.

Gender appears in whichever way people want it to. But a lot of people are uncomfortable with that. Also, if people choose to identify differently this doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with them. However, it is when we start policing how other people choose to be that we start running into problems.

Biological not always logical

Then we have the other side of that – sex. That’s the binary of ‘man and woman’ but we’ve understood for ages that’s not biologically correct, says Guy. There are many different expressions of sex: chromosomal, hormonal and chemical. We even see unwanted changes brought about by toxic chemicals.

Guy Ritani & Toad Dell presenting at recent Australasian Permaculture Convergence

There’s actually a gigantic spectrum of sexual diversity from a biological perspective. So, the social norm of what is a man and what is a woman is scientifically inaccurate. “What are we actually dealing with here?” asks Guy. If we’ve got this whole spectrum of of what sex is – why do we have such a problem with it? why is it so difficult?

This binary is behind a lot of really damaging behaviour. It’s behind a lot of trauma. There’s a weird conditioning that creates a gendered attitude towards nature.

Ethics in Practice

Social permaculture is about culture. It’s about how we relate to each other. And, it’s about how our behaviors and actions are manifest in the world. We can create practical and ethical structures of social relating.

Guy supports permaculture’s aim to combine ethics and practical solutions. We need this to address the compounding cascades of catastrophe and crisis.

Why I value the queer community is because there’s there’s no linear genealogy of queer people. They just appear randomly. And there’s no specific culture of queer people. There’s no specific race of queer people. Queer people have to relate to each other. You just have to have this predisposed sense of sort of love and communication. And safety. Because you don’t know what’s coming. You don’t know which random queer magical being is going to appear in your space. And, you have to know how to respect that and deal with that. Being able to observe and interact with queer people’s ways of being with models of justice is revolutionary.

Queer Issues

One of the biggest issues in the queer community, is access to good quality food. We all need nutrient dense food. But also access to housing. Permaculture co-housing models shown in David Holmgren’s Retrosuburbia are a great pragmatic solution. “I do really value the trade-off between these two spaces. Initially I believe there will be a weird sort of cultural ‘side-eye’. We’ll be asking “ah, how do we both feel comfortable in this space?”. And being able to have that perspective is is a way that you can get further feedback from a system. That’s why I’m really wanting to have queers come into permaculture. To be like “oh okay, how are the different ways that we can do this?” smiles Guy.

The Queer Perspective

The perspectives of queer people erupting into viable solutions, not only benefit Queer people. It benefits society as a whole. Because there are different, maybe better ways to do things. Historically, queer people had to challenge systems. They’ve learnt to become creative yet still true to themselves. They have maintained their gender integrity. A queer person is regularly challenged. As a result, their bravery and honesty makes them stronger. Strength, creativity and adaption are powerful assets to every community.

Better For All

Through understanding our biases we get better social relating and will design better systems. The benefits include getting more people to work with you. Because we desperately need to work together to solve the big issues of climate abuse.

“From permaculture and grassroots movement we know the change has grown from the bottom up. We need to be the change that we want to see in the world. And I’ve I haven’t seen that done any better than in permaculture spaces.

Learn more about Permaculture with us to build a more peaceful and nourishing future.

8 Basic Patterns in Permaculture Design

Permaculture Design for site in Calla Bay NSW by A Sampson-Kelly

Permaculture Design uses patterns. We create systems that use natural energies, like the remnant forests nearby. Because the forest wastes nothing. And the forest creates no pollution. Naturally, it turns wastes into resources.

Nature has reliable patterns that collect, store and move resources around. Permaculture designs use these 8 basic patterns. By getting to know the patterns and what they do, we can use less energy to create comfortable living.

The Basics

The basic patterns are spirals, waves, streamlines, cloud-forms, lobes, branches, nets and scatter. As our awareness of pattern develops, our designs improve. Also, we become more aware of the landscape. Slowly the site increases in efficiently by design. Eventually, we start to build a more productive spaces. Social networks can also flourish with an awareness of patterns. Find what fuels an upward spiral. Learn how to boost it. And watch things grow.

Petals encircle the bee

1. Spirals

Spirals gather in galaxies, sunflowers, cones, whirlpools, and seashells. Also, there are snails, seashells and the crown of a head of hair. In a similar way, there are mechanical uses of the spiral. This includes the spring, a cyclonic vacuum and the blades of a wind turbine.  On the other hand, socially spirals also occur. These include greed, soil degradation, and poverty. 

a wavy rock on top of Wave rock Western Australia

2. Waves

Waves occur in sound, heat and light. Also, there are waves in water, wind and in wavy hair. This pattern has many mechanical and electrical uses. For instance, ocean waves are harnessed with tidal energy, light waves fuel solar panels. Also, sound waves boom from speakers and heatwaves burst from hair dryers.  On the other hand, socially waves include crowds, yawns, laughter, fashions and movements. 

This Mandala garden in Cuba uses a circular array yet the paths are streamlined.

3. Streamlines

The skin on a snake is streamlined to minimise friction. It is quiet. Streamlines are direct but not straight. Straight lines are very rare in nature. Often it is quickly to propel matter in an arc. Streamlines occur on the front of an eagles wing, the tail of a whale and the curve of our lips. Humans have been using streamlines for thousands of years on the smooth hull of a canoe, the point of an arrow and the sharp edge of an axe. Modern uses include aerodynamics, traffic control systems and wet suits.

4. Cloud-forms

Cloud-forms disperse from hot springs and tree crowns, steam, fog or a blush on our cheek.  Clouds disperse resources. Mist and sprinkler systems, aerial spraying, spray paints use cloud-forms to create wide dispersal. Social examples include gossip and crowds attracted to street entertainers, gathering and then dispersing when the show is over. 

5. Lobes

Lobes protrude from the edge of reefs, and in lichens. They fringe the borders of salt pans. Also, our ears, fingers, toes and alveoli in the lungs are all valuable lobes. They are extensions of the main parts. Lobes act to extend energy or resources. Similarly, there are mechanical uses of the lobe. This includes the rudder of a boat, the extra carriages on a train, and bags to carry things in. On the other hand, social lobes also occur. These include gated communities, a board of directors, business clubs, family groups and teams. 

6. Branches

Branches harvest and distribute energy and resources. Like highways, branches provide options. Over time, most systems develop branches. Water meanders and trickles into streams. Ancient branch patterns can be found in genetic mutation, the origins of dialects and family trees.

7. Nets

The spider has the most celebrated web. But few people know that bees have a complex network of dances and song to guide one another. Nets serve to connect resources. They also balance the distribution of energy as inputs, flow and output. The skin of the pineapple and custard apple are nets that shield the fruit from impact. Humanity uses netting in weaving of clothes, baskets, food distribution networks and, of course, the internet. Our eyelashes, like little fish-nets, catch dust and sweep it away. The Warka Water tower uses nets of affordable material to harvest water from the air. Above all, resilient social networks hold communities together and check that everyone has care.

A scatter of snow, Johnson canyon Canada

8. Scatter

Snow, embers, algae, fungi, clumps in swamps, islands, lichen and rocks from a volcano. All things make mess. Eventually, all things scatter. Ironically, scatter is a uncontrollable law in thermodynamics called entropy. Scatter is a quick, chaotic dispersal of resources. As a result, one scatter can trigger more. As a result, life manages to find new niches and explore options for survival. Nature doesn’t need to plan when there is enough energy to scatter resources and see what happens. Nor does nature need to demonstrate control. Consequently, scatters are the result of not controlling. Scatters have been part of many discoveries in biochemistry such as the discovery of germs and antibiotics.

In Summary, the use of patterns is a fundamental key for designing systems that replicate natural systems. Decades ago, Permaculture was acknowledged as a pioneer movement in the world of biomimicry. Lets keep the ball rolling.

Design For the Best of Our Lives

Design is the fundamental skill that helps our culture adapt. Yet it is hard to master. Nick Radford, a professional designer, encourages us to keep learning to design for the rest, and for the best, of our lives.

Learning Permaculture design is a great start. “The permaculture courses are a really great resource. But if you did that course, you would not think that you knew everything about plants. Naturally, we expect to go out and keep learning your whole life about plants.” Likewise, with the art of design.

By Nick Radford – Bellingen Permaculture

Permaculture has always focused on design. The gardening and housing ideas have evolved out of the changes needed to live more sustainably. They help us modify the climate, absorb waste and be more productive at a local level. All these practices come out of the bigger plan which uses practical planning skills.

So, we need to expect to keep on learning for our whole life about how to improve our lifestyle through better planning of the spaces we occupy and work in.

Adapt and Thrive with Design Skills

Nick started 25 years ago just trying to do Permaculture. He did “the whole thing the owner building with the natural materials and the passive solar, growing food and rainforest regeneration”. It was just for himself and his family. He wanted to learn and get out of the rat race. He had a good grounding from his university studies.

His wife, at the time, was Peruvian and he had seen Peruvians were living simple, more sustainable, lives. Together they were learning a lot along the way.

Nick Radford promotes small, multi-use, well designed living spaces. Here is a home Nick Built

Build skills and share

“By now I’ve accumulated these skills of building and landscape design and site repair and wastewater and general biodiversity assessment and improvement” At first he designed for owner builders or people who are doing it on the cheap. Then his practice grew into something that more mainstream people with higher budgets and more sophisticated designs. “I love it – it’s a great job.”

by Nick Radford – Bellingen Permaculture

Nick also teaches a wider audience about the value of design. and what do we call it ecological-design or nature-based design or other words that we can adapt with nature.

‘I just think it’s something that’s really lacking in our culture is an understanding of how nature works and how people can fit in with nature rather than fight it’.

“We don’t have much time left in this destructive system”

Nick Radford – Bellingen Permaculture
by Nick Radford – Bellingen Permaculture

Schools, government system and workplaces benefit from good design. By teaching every child to value design they will start a positive culture. We adapt quickly with creative skills.

Design is a word that can separate people from professional narrow realm of architects and engineers and just the general average person who they think it’s kind of not their job to understand design.

Maybe the word design is the wrong term. Maybe, ‘creative problem solving’ is what we should call this and and creative problem solving applies to everyone because we’ve brought up in this system that really doesn’t work and we kind of accept it. Because it’s all we know but we don’t have much time left to live in this destructive system. Change will happen when people understand how they can affect the little bit of the world around them.

So, whether we call it design or creative problem solving. The first step is that people understand the creative process.

We can, and must, do it.

Start your permaculture journey with us today.

Succession Secrets Boost Production

Fuelling an Upward Spiral

Food forests often get old and woody as they mature. The fruit sits high, out of reach of mere humans and the permaculture garden looses it’s edge. Bunya Halasz, with support from Flávia Assuncao and their community, pioneer forest management strategies to increase production and diversify harvest on commercial farms. Through targeted disruption of natural forest succession, a richer production begins.

Part of our student moodle video on how creating glades boosts plantings

Magically, the forest grows with a wealth of diversity and resilience. In this short video Bunya is harvesting a pineapple with slips for replanting. Cassava lays in background. The soil is rich and diverse plants surround him.

Strategic disruption triggers succession. With skill, an upward spiral of successions evolve. Disruption naturally results from the collapse of old trees, wildfires or storms. Sometimes, the existing diversity and resilience of the mature soil system fuels an increase in production.

Bunya and Flavia’s team carefully execute a disruption to boost production. Their technique is developed on traditional farming in the tropics with their deep knowledge of the species, soil ecology and climate.

Bunya-explaining-the-diversity-to-production-spiral – enhance this image. Photo: Flávia Assuncao

Beyond a boost in production, the yield expands. Their yield now includes pioneering knowledge, skills sharing, empowerment of others and supporting diversity in the community.

Flávia is heartened by the community who value their diverse produce

What is Succession?

There are two types of succession. Primary succession builds on rock, creates soil and supports grassy plants. Whereas Secondary succession builds up layers of plants, deeper soil and a web of life.

Finally, the canopy of a mature forest closes. And a few trees become the dominant species. In a food forest, this limits our diversity of crops. At this point, the fruits of the forest ripen in the sun at the top, far from reach for mere humans. Very few annuals, herbs, shrubs or smaller trees can survive. And the area below becomes empty and becomes dark. Sometimes, a closed canopy is useful. For instance, a closed canopy can help combat weeds or to create shaded paths and work areas. But production is limited to one layer only – the canopy.

worms eye view of forest during day time
Bamboo forest showing growth at the top. Photo by kazuend on Unsplash

Disruption Opens Opportunity

One way to overcome the loss of easy pickings is to disrupt the system. Disruption enables a new wave of primary succession that immediately benefits from the deeper soil. In addition, the leafy harvest reinvigorates the soil system.

Red cedar stump regrowing at our permaculture demonstration site in Mt Kembla NSW Australia
Red cedar stump resprouting at our permaculture demonstration site in Mt Kembla NSW

Suddenly, production intensifies when the canopy opens. Lower layers once common in a primary succession, thrive again. And they grow better due to the rich soil conditions.

Spiral succession is fuelled by three factors:
increased light, released root sugars and organic cover.

Careful planning is instrumental in maintaining the wealth of organic resources. Of course, the planning depends on knowledge of species needs and careful timing. After all, chaotic large scale disruption can damage diversity and resilience.

Coppiced Logan tree interplanted with Emergent tree, banana, pawpaw, yam and much more

Mimic Nature: Slash, Sequester, Succeed

Overgrown food forests and young alley crops both benefit from this new style of succession planning.

Part of our student moodle video showing how coppicing works

Reinvigoration of Woody Forests

At ConsciousGround in the rolling hills behind Bryon, the old food forest was coppiced and interplanted. Then, the new plants were protected with mulch made from the slashings. Furthermore, the coppiced trees regrew. This provided lots of fruit within easy reach. Now the site supports an understorey of pineapples, taro, bananas, herbs and a wide diversity of trees. In addition, flocks of turkeys and chickens browse fallen fruit.

Like the surrounding rainforest, the layers vary with vines and herbs. This reinvigorated food forest is bursting with banana, papaya, berry, native fruits, yams, cranberry hibiscus, taro, tamarillo, sugarcane, cassava, arrowroot, ginger, pineapple, sweet potato and culinary herbs.

wonderful culinary creations by chef Nic Barrett and his wife Kath Austen at Consciousground NSW
Wholesome and delicious culinary creations by chef Nic Barrett and team at Consciousground in NSW

Power of Emergent Trees

Emergent trees act like solar panels, gathering light from above and protecting smaller plants below. Bunya’s team, keeps 10-20% of the compatible emergent tree cover to protect the site from harsh summer sun in Australia. At first, they trim the side branches to force the emergent trees to grow tall and strong. In a few years, the emergent trees become strong enough to support a ladder. Then the team cut and harvest them as poles. Consequently their root systems either die or retreat. This unlocks nutrients for the next plants. As a result, another succession begins. And a resilient production spiral arises.

Part of our student moodle video on use of emergent species in agroforestry at GrowingRootsPermaculture

Enriched Commerical Mono-cropping

Hosted by the innovative The Farm at Byron, a rare agricultural beacon is demonstrated. Here you can see the power of intensive diverse cropping taught by GrowingRootsPermaculture in conjunction with Living Agroecology and Hungry Earth Agroecology. This plots using spiral succession and permaculture are brimming with produce.

Layers of production at The Farm in Byron.
Layers of production at The Farm in Byron.

The progression from monocropping through to alley cropping and then low canopy agroforestry is clear. Diverse intensive production replaces standard commercial mono-cropping. The plantings start with annual crops such as corn and beans. As the annual crops are mature, perennial plants are introduced. Spent stems and leaves shelter young plants from sunburn or frost. Next plantings are fast-growing emergent species. Emergent species shoot up to capture light. As a result, they also serve as mist collectors and wind or frost protection.

Support GrowingRootsPermaculture. Join their upcoming living agroforestry course.

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