Self-Reliance Not Self-Sufficiency

difference between self-reliance and self-sufficiency

Self-Reliance Is Empowering

You could be forgiven if you thought that permaculture was about self-sufficiency. Self-sufficiency is not the idealised ‘GOOD LIFE’ as speculated in the 70’s by BBC.  If you want long days of lonely, repetitive hard work and the very real risk of starvation and disease, then self-sufficiency would be for you.

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

In a nut-shell, Self-reliance enables empowerment through increased local production by giving, trading and/or sharing. ‘Self-Reliance’ values and cares for the weak and the elderly. Self-Reliance has the power to  strengthen community connections, improve our health and the planet’s health.

Community Values You

Permaculture promotes a sense of community. The basic ethic of Caring for People drives us to build better communities. By consulting the community we design adaptable  structures – physical and invisible. Physical structures include social hubs, educational and recreational areas.  Invisible structures include trading centers, banking systems and news exchange facilities.

Supercharged Design

winter harvest_croppedPermaculture designs for whole ‘villages’ not just individual households. This increases the efficiency of the waste cycles. Resources (physical, intellectual, social) are more immediate and usable. At best, the cycle of local production and disposal of the waste are tightly connected.

Self Reliance Grows By Sharing

city-farm-sharing

Frequent exchange of little resources requires very little planning. In a busy community, resources are shared, traded and loaned. ‘Hand-me-downs’ are passed on as needed. Harvests and meals are casually shared. Valuable and timely knowledge is offered informally.

One of the most obvious features of this ‘informal’ economy is that the consumer and producer meet. They tend to be kind to one another. In his free e-book, Permaculture Strategy for the South African Villages Terry Leahy explores the power of the gift economy. The gift economy fulfills the permaculture principle of ‘working where it counts’.

Self Reliance builds Self Esteem

sharing-the-tree-of-hearts

Many farmers work in isolation with heavy budget pressures.  On a large property, farming is time-consuming, lonely and destructive.

In surprising 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. Enriching the community bonds through localised trade helps to build bridges and understanding.

Owning a large property is huge responsibility

ladies-morning-meeting-in-glasshouse-market-gardenLarge properties have heavy maintenance requirements. The cost of neglect can increase the risk of disasters such as fire. A community management team can help share this responsibility and combine resources for tree loping, noxious weeds control, soil erosion management, water pollution filtration, and emergency response.

Elders adopt the ‘benefactor’ model

Self reliant eldersElders can share their workload whilst mentoring young people. Sharing your resources, skills and know-how creates a closer-knit community.

This is known as the ‘benefactor’ model. This model works well for Polyface farms and other small communities. As a result, a succession of skilled people in a specialist field is ensured.

Permaculture values people as well as our environment.

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

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Bill’s Gift of Optimism

chicken-laughing-saladMost of the time, Bill Mollison smiled and lied. He led people to believe that change to a permanent culture was “embarrassingly  simple” .
As a result, thousands of Australians were filled with optimism believing they could be instrumental change makers.  Despite the fact that there were few demonstration sites and not much scientific evidence, a lot was invested by everyday people. And a lot of paid off.

Says Who?

The technical limitations of the 70s and 80s were huge. Most people didn’t know what food plants looked like, how to store rainwater in the soil, how to establish local barter systems or how to harness natural energies. But the ‘earth-carers’ of this new era moved with confidence and built a wealth of really handy information.  With confidence, a movement grew to include research councils, academic clout and beautiful demonstration sites.

Unafraid Of The Unknown

wisdom

Impatient and unwilling to wait for further research papers to prove the theories of permaculture, Bill encouraged people to go out and try things for themselves.

It was a brave stunt and it paid off.  Without any funding or scientific rigor, many people went out and just did stuff.  Although most of city projects were a mix of half-baked weekend projects and ‘so-called hippy’ social experiments, we must not forget the resounding successes in starving nations like Cuba. (Many quiet and hard working Australians like Robyn Francis and Robyn Clayfield went abroad to help people in need. And many are still there). From those bare-faced, naive Australians a gigantic world-wide movement grew.

Bill ‘Let It Go’

Success came by encouraging anyone who would listen and anyone who cared.

Ordinary people began to do extra-ordinary things.

mandala-cubaAnyone and everyone was encouraged to try to build their observation skills, listen to nature, own homes, raise their children with different thinking and defy long held, well promoted customs and laws. Unfortunately, some of these laws and customs remain ridiculously defiant.  (i.e. keeping thirsty, high maintenance lawns or not daring to hang your laundry outside). But other customs have quickly changed.  Many practices such as mulching, harvesting water into tanks or rain-gardens, recycling, composting and worm-farming are now commonplace around the world.
Above all, it was this immense naive optimism that enriched millions of people’s lives. The optimism achieved mundane targets of reduced their waste whilst offering grand hopes for a better future.

That’s how you create a culture!  You aim to question the values and change the habits.

cook-pool-dry-and-abandoned

Bill saw the desperate need for action and he led those willing to adapt.

Bill didn’t invent the wheel. Instead, he built the connections and handed us the steering wheel. Whilst he often acknowledged his mentors, he saw how a new set of values and design thinking could shape a new, sustainable, culture. These teachings were timely, insightful and brutally honest.

It’s Our Turn

rooster_coolAt the Sydney National Permaculture Convergence Bill said he ‘stood on the shoulders of giants’. Perhaps his sudden rise to fame after winning the alternative Nobel Prize gave Bill super-confidence. Or perhaps it was because he enjoyed shocking people into action.  Regardless of the root cause, Bill Mollison became Gladwell’s tipping-point salesman.

With his recent passing, it is now our turn to share the optimism, harvest information from the elders, support the new promoters,  and continue to forge ahead.

Ownership is Ours

Bill Mollison and April Sampson-KellyThe 70s change-makers didn’t just follow his ideas. They were enthusiastic about them and owned the results. Yes  they often failed but shared this and made continual improvements.  Because the small successes were so frequent and so sweet they pushed on. Slowly but surely, the work of these lone-wolf pioneers built the huge banks of knowledge and resources we now know as permaculture.

Consequently, this wealth of information and ideas now belongs to us all. This empowerment was conceived by optimism and fed by a sense of adventure. People had food in their bellies and many surprise side-products to savour.

Empowerment is a gift that last for generations.

hearing-aid-mechanicalThis empowered movement gave young people the confidence to build a better future. And many became those new change makers. As we enter each new era we need to keep our focus on empowering the young.

Permaculture is now more than just growing food in the cities to reduce pressure on existing forests. Permaculture is also about the social development needed for a sustainable relationships. Building peaceful relationships with one another and with the earth.

unusual-foodsSince the 80s we have demonstrated how easy it is to grow food in the cities. We now turn our minds to developing the social aspects of Permaculture. This is the new frontier. With a similar  spirit of hopefulness we can generate extra-ordinary action.

Learn more with a personal mentor. Enrol Here

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Wicking – Amazing

transported raised beds at Earth Keepers in Buxton NSW

The Gentle Gardener’s Dream

sit back and enjoy not having to water
Lay back – you do not have to water your wicking pots every day
  • robust
  • low-maintenance
  • compact
  • highly productive
  • transportable (take your garden or farm with you)
  • suitable for hard surfaces including parking lots and roof-tops
  • a great way to use space underneath trees, not competing with the tree roots
  • able to be constructed and maintained without great physical strength. Perfect for families
  • suitable for wheelchair users and people who don’t want to bend over all day.
  • no dig, no carbon released into the atmosphere, no pain
  • less likely to get trashed by your chickens

Wicking For Pots and Open Gardens

Wicking beds can be built in large tubs, baths, barrels, ponds, or raised beds with a lining. However, if you too want to avoid plastics, you can recycle an old rainwater tank, a bathtub, a wooden barrel, or large old commercial food tin.

What’s Wicking?

Chicken drinking with straw

Wicking is a simple technique of letting water be sucked up by plants whenever they require it. This works the same way as a drinking straw. The straw works by creating a vacuum at the top. The water rises to fill that vacuum. In a similar way, the soil and plants can wick up water as they use it.

All we need to do is ensure:

1. a constant supply of water in the reservoir at the base and

2. enough wicking material to transport the water.

Good ‘ol Osmosis

Osmosis is nature’s way of transporting water through the soil and plants. Osmosis happens when we soak ourselves in a bath for a long time. Our skin gets puffy and wrinkled. Organic matter in soil soaks up the water one cell to another.

Earth Keepers excellent soil

Plants transpire water during the day and the sun dries out the surface of the land. This creates a vacuum of water at the top. Soil that is rich in organic materials, can carry moisture up to the dry surface by osmosis. [Remember to use mulch to reduce water loss.]

Stacking

Jeremy Yau of Sydney has lots of wicking beds because space is at a premium. And the surrounding trees give the home valuable shade in summer. Jeremy employs the permaculture principle of stacking. He has placed some wicking beds beneath tall trees in the chicken run. Some of the wicking tubs contain large shrubs. His chickens roam around the mini food jungle without being tempted to trash the plants. In fact, they get to nibble anything hanging over from the sides in a run that would normally be empty of pickings.

jeremy-yau's-place

The most valuable feature of a garden made of wicking beds is transportability. When you relocate, you can hire some heavy lifting gear to take the garden with you or sell the garden separately.

The technique of water wicking can be used in all garden beds. However, wicking is particularly valuable for difficult areas ie. boggy soil, hard-pan soil, rock or concrete slabs.

Natural Wicking

mound-garden-swale-water---cross-sectional-view

A primary goal in a permaculture design is to reduce soil erosion and nutrient loss. This is achieved by slowing the movement of water in the landscape. The addition of wicking gardens lets the soil and plants draw their own water.

Firstly, use garden mounds, ponds and above-ground trenches to trap the rain water and allow it to seep through. Secondly, use edge materials that resist erosion but have gaps to allow water to percolate through. These materials include papier-mache, rocks and recycled loose bricks. Finally, ensure that the gardens consist of rich high organic matter because this allows wicking to occur. You can add wicking material such as old jute or hessian bags at the base of the garden beds.

The Resilient Bog

If you are lucky to have boggy soil, then you can simply build the garden beds on top. Pile on the compost, put in a chicken dome, then plant it out. The height required depends on what you wish to grow, how much it rains and how the size of the reservoir of water.  Experiment with a mixture of shallow (ie. Lettuce, tomato) and deep-rooted (kale, Spinach, carrots). The water in the boggy ground below will wick up if the soil in the bed is full of rich organic material.

Purple Pear NSW use-climbing-annuals-as-windbreak--natural-wicking

Purple Pear in the Hunter Valley NSW., Australia is a busy community supported agricultural farm. With years of patient composting they have created lush and abundant gardens on a boggy field. They use bathtub wicking beds for their carrot crops and use the bog-based mandala gardens for leafy greens.

wicking-beds-in bathtubs Purple Pear

Wicking Delights on Rock

Most gardeners wouldn’t dream of setting their food gardens on rock or concrete. But then, most gardeners are not as inventive or determined as food gardeners. In a permaculture design we put the food close to where we can observe its needs and readiness. So the position is partially dependent on the site conditions but mostly on the end-user’s needs.

When creating gardens on rock, choose areas where the rock is flat with a shallow basin. This dish shape will form a hanging swamp and a good lens of water for wicking. If you don’t want the path to be the pool of water, dig a small trench on the high side. Earthkeepers in Buxton NSW built many of their gardens on bedrock.

mound-garden

You can WOOF or make an appointment to visit Purple Pear or EarthKeepers. They are great examples of mature permaculture gardens and the hosts have decades of experience.

If you want to do a workshop on Easy earthworks join an upcoming workshop on our site.

Study Permaculture with us at Permaculture Visions.

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Free From Techno-Confusion

Be Freed from Confusion About New Technologies

confusionThe brave step of supporting a new technology can be full of confusion.  Techno-confusion is mounting as more, and more technologies are invented. The world is desperately searching for technological improvement to help solve climate uncertainty.  [Permaculture is one technological and cultural solution.] Yet even as we discover healthy technologies, humanity will continuously aim to reduce inefficiencies.

Everyone wants to be part of the solution. Many of understand why it is good to search for clean and efficient technologies. But most of us are confused about ‘how to tell what is best’

Joy_Of_Understanding_Permaculture_Visions

How can we rid ourselves of confusion, build our confidence; make informed decisions; remain unswayed by emotion; ignore slick sales pressures and side-step [or lead] new fashion trends?

At PermacultureVisions we created a decision tool to help you determine your own values and priorities. It may also lead you to consider environmental aspects.  The least it can do is help save you time and money.

Master the Art of Decision Making

get an apLectures are useful to get up to speed on facts and figures. Tutoring helps you understand the factors in those decisions. Mentoring guides you as you tailor the choices to suit your individual needs. The table  below is part of our mentorship and teaching program.  Instead of telling you what to buy, like a sales team, we would rather help you make technological choices.

How Can I Compare All the Different Technologies Available?

We can evaluate new technologies and compare like products when we consider each feature and cost. Here is a guide to help you compare technologies or products with similar purpose. This evaluation tool was developed with our students Morgan Stephens, Tessha Mearing, and Penny Cross.

home-grown-teasThe aim of this tool is to equip permaculture designers with a means to evaluate a new technology themselves rather than being told what is best. Technologies change rapidly, so advise can get conflicting and the technology efficiency is dependent on the context of the user.

You can set your own rating value. This will reflect how important this aspect or feature is in your choice. Sit back with a cuppa, set the priorities and enjoy!

GO TO THE COMPARISON TABLE HERE

Be An Innovator

My_Car_Future-top-slice

The consumer can become the leader.  The consumer can test, adapt, and develop techniques and strategies. We can give informed feedback to the product-developers. If the product has modular parts, we often find new uses and by-products . Further inventions can be lead by the grass-roots users.

Be mentored in Your Permaculture Journey

Do a permaculture course with us today.

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