Worm Farms of the Great Indoors

Urban Permaculture Adventures

Growing up in a gorgeous permaculture garden builds some unusual adult expectations. Our children played with worms, cuddled chickens, climbed trees, nibbled on flowers and sometimes fell into patches of stinging nettle. When our son grew up he was shocked by the city waste and frustrated that he could no longer compost.  Confined to a totally indoor existence, his idea for an indoor worm-farm was conceived.

Our first worm-farm towers were developed by one of our permaculture design course graduates, Robyn Crossland. The worm-farm adventure is ever developing.

Waste in a Tiny Space

We looked at old worm-farm systems which are pretty cool and decided to create a tiny version. The coffee-addict indoor worm farm was the smallest prototype.  Then we up-sized to an old kitchen bin.

Even though we have plenty of space outdoors, we didn’t expect the indoor worm-farm to be so convenient. We loved it. The waste items that are not suitable for the poultry (such as banana peels) go directly into the worm-farm.  So, we kept one for ourselves.

Do Worms Like being Indoors?

Worms like a steady temperature, they don’t like hot black housing in the full sun. Worms instinctively hide from sunlight. Nor do they thrive in cold mouldy places. Compost worms, [Perionyx Excavatus and friends] come from the tropical treetops. Our great indoors are cosy for worms, especially in winter.

Are Worms Smelly?

Worms don’t smell bad.  Rotting food smells bad. Imagine having house-mates who don’t bother to put out the garbage until it gets smelly. That was the situation our son was living with. How could worms living in the food waste possibly be worse than that?

The first challenge is to learn what can be put into the worm-farm.  Basically, worms can eat anything that was once living, but they prefer not to eat citrus or onion. Meat can be a problem because it goes off quickly. So leave out meat, onion and citrus and add some shredded paper and cotton rags every now and then to reduce wetness.

What Do I Need?

For a Simple Worm-farm You need:

  • a fully sealed but not air-tight container. It is important to be able to keep out other creatures (like cockroaches, flies or vinegar flies)
  • Use a recycled strong plastic bag (grain bag) with small holes cut into it for drainage.  This protect the worms from accidental drowning
  • Position an upturned pot or two to support the bag off the base. This provides space at the bottom of the farm where fertilizer-rich fluid may collect. Also, the pots provide something for any lost worms to climb back up.
  • Include some bedding inside the bag. Bedding is usually an open-weave fabric. It holds the worm eggs. You can use hessian or a loose weave rag, preferably no nylon or plastics, only natural materials.
  1. What Do I Need To Do?

    Feed the worms kitchen scraps and torn plain paper. Worms love coffee grinds and banana peels. If you are going on a vacation, fill up the bin with fallen leaves and weeds from the street or your potted plants.

  2. Take the worm bin outside periodically to tip out the liquid build-up.  How often depends on how much liquid you put into the farm. We check ours each week. We don’t put any liquid into the farm, just coffee grinds and banana peels.
  3. Sort out the worms from the castings outside or in a bathroom as it can get messy. Use the castings for potting mixture for more potted plants or feed the castings and liquid manure on a street tree or in a local park.

Advanced Potted Worm-farm system

layers in potted worm farm tower invented by robyn crosslandFollow the instructions for a Basic Worm farm then add plants on top. You need:

  • a tight fitting pot to sit on top with potted herbs and
  • a feeding tube that runs all the way down the pot plant and to a hole to the worms in the next section down.
  • add a cap over the feeding tube (you can use an upturned pot)

Are Worms Fast? Yes But…

Worms are not the fastest composting organism but they are low risk. If you want fast composting, make a black soldier larvae farm.  [Don’t have a larvae farm indoors without really strict hygiene controls].

What Kills Worms?

Like everything else, neglect is one of the biggest killers for pets. Indoor worms are likely to die from too much liquid, too little food or too much food. But there is one killer lurking in many household kitchens – insecticide. Poisons would account for sudden deaths. Avoid sprays and cleaners entering the worm bin.

Happy Worming!

small indoor worm-farm made from old water filter

Self-Reliance Not Self-Sufficiency

difference between self-reliance and self-sufficiency

Self-Reliance Is Empowering

Permaculture is not about self-sufficiency. Self-sufficiency is not as simple as the idealised ‘GOOD LIFE’ TV series in the 70’s by BBC.  It is full of long lonely days, repetitive hard work, and constant risk of starvation and disease.

If, however, you are looking for a lifestyle that connects you with nature and your neighbours, boost your Self-Reliance.

Self-reliance stimulates local production by giving, trading or sharing. Many people don’t realise what skills they have to trade. As a member of an informal trading organisation, some people offer cleaning fluids, dog biscuits, repairs. There are even systems with quick and easy exchange such a tables of free food plant harvests at the gate.

But, best of all, self-reliance enables us to care for the weak and the elderly. This strengthens community connections, improves our mental and physical health. And, as a community, we pool efforts to improve our environment.

Value your Community and They Will Value You

Permaculture promotes a sense of community because it is built on ethics: Care of People, the Planet and Fair Share. Caring for People invites us to build better communities. Then, with consultation with our community we can design adaptable community spaces. Both physical and invisible can be designed for adaptability. The physical structures for adaptability include social hubs, educational and recreational areas. Supporting this, are hidden structures such as trading centres, banking systems and news exchange facilities.

A Supercharged Design

winter harvest_cropped

When working for self-reliance, we design for whole ‘villages’ not just individual households. So, this increases the efficiency of the waste cycles. Resources (physical, intellectual, social) are more immediate and usable. As a result, the cycle of local production and disposal of the waste are tightly connected.

Self Reliance Grows By Sharing city-farm-sharing

Frequent exchanges on a small scale requires very little planning. As a result, a busy community has quick means for sharing, trading and lending resources. ‘Hand-me-downs’ are passed on as needed. Harvests and meals are easily shared. Also, valuable and timely knowledge is offered informally.

As a result of informal trading features of this ‘informal’ economy is that the consumer and producer get to meet. They tend to be kind to one another. Particularly, in his free e-book, Permaculture Strategy for the South African Villages Terry Leahy explores the power of the gift economy. In general, the gift economy fulfils the permaculture principle of ‘working where it counts’. And secondly, it can expand our circle of influence.

Self Reliance builds Self Esteem

Due to economic pressures and modern machinery, many farmers work in isolation with heavy budget pressures.  On a large property, farming is time-consuming, lonely and destructive. In contrast to this, small holdings can be highly productive and rewarding. This works especially well when the local community supports local food production directly through farmers markets. Given that Rural suicide is significantly higher than urban, healthy relationships are the key to survival. When farmers need assistance (psychological, medical and veterinary services) help needs to be close at hand. So,enriching the community bonds through localised trade helps to our social network and build bridges of understanding.

Owning a large property is huge responsibility

ladies-morning-meeting-in-glasshouse-market-garden

Because large properties have heavy maintenance requirements and the cost of neglect increases the risk of disasters such as fire, a community management team can help share this responsibility. So,owners can combine resources for tree loping, noxious weeds control, soil erosion management, water pollution filtration, and emergency response.

Elders adopt the ‘benefactor’ model

Self reliant elders

There is also opportunity for inter-generational learning where elders share their productive skills whilst mentoring young people. So, the sharing of resources, skills and know-how begins to create a closer-knit community. Also, it reduces waste.

Specifically, this ‘benefactor’ model works well for Polyface farms and many other rural communities. As a result, a succession of skilled people in a specialist field is ensured.

Permaculture values people as much as our environment.

Build your own self-reliance skills. Enrol with us today.

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Transport: Driving Us Further Apart

The Tyranny of Distance

earth_sun_day_fireyThe world population grows every second.  As the density increases each of us gets physically closer to one another.  Very few of us remain are truly remote.  And yet, most of us are more reliant than ever on transport for work, goods, services, education, vacations and relationships.

Why do we travel more and travel further? Is eco-transport the solution or will expectations simply match capacity to travel. Can we change this culture of transport to cut the mileage and build true sustainability?

On Being Distant

chinese-pedlar-ming-dynasty-chicago-museum_2The more wealth a person accumulates, the more distant they become. They need more storage and display space. This bigger wealthy living space creates their physical separation from society. But this is not the only force driving the wealthy apart. The huge growth in sales for solo entertainment and exercise gadgets adds to the pressure for space.  Self-driving cars will simply encourage us to travel further and longer.  Wealthy consumers have a reducing need to share. Perhaps they will enjoy the lower risk of catching germs in public spaces and a reduced potential to be the target of any uncomfortable village gossip. But there is a serious downside to this excess.

In this hedonistic space no-one can hear you scream.

fostering a love of animals helps children develop empathy and understanding of nature.

A human being is part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. We experience ourselves, our thoughts and feelings as something separate from the rest. .. Our task must be to free ourselves from the prison ..We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if humanity is to survive. Albert Einstein, 1954

Future of Eco-Transport

Transport in the future will be more efficient not just because fuel may become more expensive but because the pollutants from each vehicle need to be cooler. Automobiles are a major contributor to climate change. So, each automobile needs to be cleaner and used more wisely. The average car sits idle, quietly depreciating, 92 percent of the time.

bikeBicycles are the most efficient form of transport and it is great how major cities like Copenhagen and London have built bicycle superhighways. Of course, public transport is easier for most commuters and freight companies. Rail is especially good for long distances. A lot of governments have been forging new public transit technologies. Shipping is the most efficient means of transporting goods and cruise ships are enjoying an era of renewal for long distance travel. Cars rank very low in transport efficiency.

Cars of the future will need to be:

  • car of futureModular. We could make cars as small as necessary and able to linked to one another as required.
  • Fully Biodegradable. Steel is biodegradable and some new plastics can be made out of very tough natural materials.
  • Durable
  • Able to fixed easily. When items are able to be fixed simply, they have a far greater chance of durability. If you break down in a rare vehicle, be prepared to wait longer for someone to know how to fix it and have the parts.
  • Classic and functional yet beautiful in design. Beauty enables a vehicle to be treasured much longer than its peak performance period.
  • Self-analysing and self-repairing.  Living modes of transport such as horses are self-repairing if well maintained.

Permaculture is Not Idyllic Country Living

The ideal permaculture home does not sit in isolation. When we are sharing and giving to family, to neighbours, to the community, to our society, we build a more peaceful world.

Culture Shift To Reduce Transport Needs

There are three ways to modify our behaviour to reduce our need to travel.
1. Be Proud – celebrate local foods and services 2. Be Creative 3. Share

1. Celebrate Local Production

pride

Local produce fits the climate so it usually has less chemical inputs, is more nutritious because it is fresher (has not been transported far) and supports local workers.

2. Creative and Inventive

Being creative means we find ways to solve the problem that have local resources. It can be as simple as finding an alternative utensil for a task rather than buying another tool imported from a foreign country.

3. Sharing

Permaculture leader, David Holmgren says: sharing a ride will double your efficiency, instantly. When we share more, we need less storage space and get better neighbours. If that’s not possible ask yourself: why live in the kind of area that people don’t appreciate sharing?

Sharing can be:sharing-over-fence

  • Formal like hiring a car or a suit, or paying for local food
  •  Informal like barter or offering a neighbour a lift, lending them a car or giving them an old bike. The building of trust can start with just a friendly cup of sugar when they have run low.
  • Semi-formalised like local exchange currency trading, business barter systems, and selling/recycling goods on eBay, gum-tree.

Sharing and giving reduces our need to travel. It builds trust within relationships, neighbourhood goodwill and peaceful communities. People who enjoy each other’s company are more likely to make fun at home together rather than feel the need to travel to see friends.

Join us in a permaculture course online or on Permaculture Design Course Retreat.

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Solar Energy – The Oldest Power On Earth

Years of Power In Just One Day

There is more solar energy striking the earth’s surface in one and a half hours (480 EJ) than worldwide energy consumption in the year from all sources combined (430 EJ).solar-power-cut

“The question I ask myself is: what do I want to achieve? and what are all my options to get the task done? For example: when I buy a drill I am really wanting something to make a hole. Essentially, we need to
Keep the endpoint in focus and the options wide
Green Technology Engineer – Paul Kelly, Research Support at Permaculture Visions.

Wide Spectrum of Solar Opportunities

solar-rays

Solar power is abundant, free and the oldest power source known to humanity. The Sun beams a broad variety of energy waves to us.  For thousands of years humanity has used the heat, light and UV for our daily tasks.  We are enjoying an explosion of research and development as we near peak pollution and warming targets.  Along with the rise in Solar technology a number of female engineers are leading research and many mature women are able to contribute to installation and maintenance.

Boston Herald 1948 re: Dover Sun House invented by female engineer Maria Telkes.

Developing Technologies Include:

www.oorja.in

diagram: www.oorja.in

Different Solar hot water systems – bathroom water and room heating

What is the Environmental Cost of Solar Panels?

To calculate the full cost of any gadget we can do a whole of life analysis. This works out the energy cost from the time we dig the materials up to the time we dispose or recycle the materials. Research shows that a solar panels generate more energy that it took to create and many panels are lasting much longer than originally expected.

With recent developments including organic solar cells, the environmental cost is coming down. Durability and effeciency is constantly rising.

Can I Use Solar Energy Without Buying More Stuff?

Some great passive solar options include:

sustainability workshop
  • attach a conservatory or Greenhouse (made with recycled windows) to the sun-side of your home to create warm air. the trick is to keep it small to reduce the cooling air movement.
  • place mirrors in the garden to reflect light into the home. You can make sculptures out of recycled stainless steel instead of glass.
  • create a solar oven made out of reclaimed picture frames and a thickwalled box.
  • make your own light-shelves, install a waterbottle light in a dark shed
  • experiment with drying food
  • incorporate simple heat banks [like Trombe walls] into your home and office
  • hang herbs to dry in your kitchen or a simple solar dryer
  • hang your clothes to dry
  • if you live in a cold climate – build a cozy outdoor nook in the sunny corner of a tiny greenhouse. Incorporate lots of thermal mass (ie. mud-brick benches and pillars) and you can sunbathe in it on sunny days in winter.  Install a shower with a rocketstove water heater in another corner and you could spend most of your winters daytime happily in there as do many on Carraig Dulra permaculture farm in Ireland!

Here is a great list of DIY projects – Enjoy!

Learn how to integrate Solar into a Permaculture Lifestyle in a Permaculture Design Course with us Online.

Or immerse yourself in a full time two-week Permaculture design class this June at Permaculture Sydney with world-class teachers.