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

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.

Why did the Wallaby cross the road? – wisdom, action and support for young people

Another high profile international sportsman, Wallaby David Pocock, picked up the ball and starting running in the Australian federal election. What motivates young people into climate change action. And how can we support them?

Climate activist Greta Thunberg discussed EU plans to tackle the climate emergency regarding the Climate Law, a proposal seeking to commit the EU to carbon neutrality by 2050. Thunberg criticised the committee proposal as insufficient: “The EU must lead the way. You have the moral obligation to do so and you have a unique economical and political opportunity to become a real climate leader”. Greta went on to say “You, yourselves, declared that we are in a climate and environment emergency. You said this was an existential threat. Now you must prove that you mean it.”

It is vital to follow “ a science-based pathway”. “Anything else is surrender.” “This climate law is surrender. Because nature doesn’t bargain and you cannot make deals with physics.”

Introducing her, environment committee chair Pascal Canfin said the energy of young people transforms society. 

Climate activist Greta Thunberg by European Parliament – This file has been extracted from another file, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=88931682

Ready, Set, Action

Candidate David Pocock played rugby internationally and has 83 with awards. He told the Canberra times that running for the senate is “a huge challenge and it’s an exciting one,”. Although the Canberra region is the home of the federal parliament house it has an independent political nature.

David Pocock says "we need new voices in politics standing up for our community with long-term thinking and a visions for our future.
Wallaby hopeful David Pocock https://assets.nationbuilder.com/davidpocock/pages/112/attachments/original/1650602626/David_Pocock_Policy_One-Pager.pdf?1650602626

Despite modern town planning, Canberra suffered in recent heatwaves (43 degrees Celsius (110 Fahrenheit) on January 4, 2020). The residents felt and smelt the smoke and dust from the fires of 2019-2020. And their once popular local tourism industry, the snow fields has begun to slowly melt away. Canberra knows first-hand the impact of climate change.

Take Action

Be Supportive to be Active

The sad thing for young people is they can’t see the change and many older people won’t admit the losses. But given the right education and ability to research, they quickly learn the changes that demonstrate climate crisis. Young People need easy access to records about losses of biodiversity to make forecasts effective response.

Next, we must stop politicising and blocking action on climate crisis. Then, develop empathy, real support (secure housing and employment) and foster leadership.

Taro, monstera, yams, cumquat, sweet potato, watercress and more enrich this young person’s balcony

Climate action steps in each Permaculture Zone

At the heart of our action (Zone 0) we develop listening and empathy skills with non-violent communication. Then we step into actions for Zones 1-2 by documenting ideas and giving skills development. As well as giving real life assistance such as accommodation, sharing resources and financial support. When we share the workloads, offer business guidance, offer informal training for young people, we create employment readiness.

Next up, Zones 3 and 4 accommodate the sharing of resources. These include workspace, seeding capital, equipment, plants, and produce offers young people a chance to develop their own businesses. For example, Mark Sheppard of New Forest Farm offered start up resources such as apples for young people to make a cider business, herbs and flowers for another young person to start floristry and herbal remedies. Established generations have much to offer the next generation. And young people have creative ideas and energy to make it work.

Finally, Zone 5 supports remaining wildlife and models of sustainability.

Learn how to design a sustainable society and environment using Permaculture skills.

Zone 5 Feeds Our Unique Ecosystem

Wildlife is a vital part of the whole ecology of a permaculture site. Dick Copeman campaigns for sustainability for humanity and the forgotten wildlife creatures in our delicate ecosystem.

Dr Dick Copeman is a humble leader full of inspiring ideas. He is one of the founders of Northey Street City Farm in 1994, and still involved in the Farm. Originally a medical doctor, Dick has also worked as a campaigner on food policy, fair trade and sustainability issues. He has a Diploma in Permaculture. And has co-authored the book ‘Inviting Nature to Dinner’ available at earthling enterprises . Here shows us how to integrate more wildlife in our permaculture designs.

Wildlife is a vital part of the whole ecology of a permaculture site.

No place on the planet is complete without
its full range of species.

Dick Copeman
Native Rosella Hibiscus with tiny insects at Shoalhaven Heads Native Botanic Garden
beautiful and tasty food for us as well as wildlife
Native Rosella Hibiscus with tiny insects at Shoalhaven Heads Native Botanic Garden

Wildlife Builds Diverse Ecologies

Each site has specific species who have, over millennia, shaped their own ecology. Each site has an unique ecosystem. The site needs this full and complex ecology to function effectively.

Dick says “If we diminish that wildlife by clearing habitat [and by ‘wildlife’ I include plants as well], excess degradation and too much disturbance well… the site is poorer. Many ‘permies’ realize this and they try their best to incorporate wildlife. I could see that that invertebrates are a very important part of wildlife that are often not acknowledged or overlooked in this whole scheme.

Common brown butterfly Seven mile beach 
National Park
beautiful wildlife
Common brown butterfly at Seven Mile Beach National Park

Tiny Beings, Big Mass of Wildlife

Invertebrates are by far the biggest number of species and the biggest amount of living biomass on any site. They fly around, burrow in the soil and swim in the water. So, in the food web, invertebrates are important mediators. They translate food into energy.

Predatory wasp nymph eating spider that mum stored in nest. Valuable wildlife
Predatory wasp nymph eating spider that mum stored in nest

Many permaculture designers had this idea of you have your intensive veggies in zone one and your fruit trees in zone two. And it’s not till zone four or five that you really have native plants to provide the habitat for your your native insects and other invertebrates. Sure, they provide habitat for native slaters, worms and millipedes and all those provide recycling and decomposing. But what we’re experimenting with at northeast street and in the book is mixing and matching native plants with exotic food plants. And also highlighting the role of native foods, or bush foods. And encouraging people to to grow more of them.

Book 'Inviting Nature to Dinner' promotes incorporation of wildlife

Bush Foods Feed Us Too

“I don’t think 25 million Australians… will ever be able to feed themselves totally on bush food plants. Because we’re no longer hunter-gatherers, like the original people were, with a much lower population rate. But there are many bush foods that we could be eating more. And the thing we highlight in the book is that those bush foods support or provide food for many more native insects and other invertebrates than our exotic food plants.

Bush lollies - walking stick palm Linospadix monostachyos 
very edible wildlife and people food
Linospadix monostachyos- Bush Lollies

Some exotic plants food plants support native insects but nowhere near the rate that the native plants will. And even with the exotic food plants we can still incorporate a lot of native plants in amongst our orchards and food forests. Native plants assist in enriching the soil. And they attract pollinators and herbivores to help with cycling of nutrients.

Rediscover Indigenous ‘Good Bug’ Mixes

“So what we’re experimenting with, (and finding good results) is incorporating native plants instead of exotics. A lot of permaculture people will plant good bug mix to bring in predatory wasps that will predate on caterpillars that might be eating our tomatoes or our corn”. But the good bug mix usually uses exotic plants like Queen Anne’s lace. “We know you can provide a much better effect through planting native plants. And get more support for your whole ecosystem. We’re hoping to be able to demonstrate that it really does work!” says a very happy Dick Copeman.