Giving the Gift

Chicka Donna and Angels pleased grateful for the egg

Treasuring People and Planet

One gift flows from many intentions. After all, a gift acknowledges the other and acts as a physical reminder of the social connection. But your gift doesn’t have to cost the earth. Even better, give something joyous both for the receiver and their environment.

“When we experience ourselves as givers,
we receive a deep and enduring affirmation of our value to others.”

Brett Steenbarger FORBES
Instrument craftsman in Peru playing wooden flute
Locally handcrafted gifts give three-ways
They give joy to 1. your loved one 2. to your Environment and 3. to the artist and their economy.

Make It Personal

Giving a gift has the power to tell someone “I value you and I know what you like”. The purpose of giving is to enrich the bond. In truth, giving is not so much about the value of the gift. It is more likely that the gift expresses how much you value the relationship. How can we give a gift that reflects what we know they like and not put demands on the planet? One of the safest bets is a paper book about their favourite topic. Ultimately, presents such as books are often reused and in their final stage, they will decompose.

Sustainable Gifts

Recycled Birdcage with a wicking garden
Our Recycled Birdcage with Garden
  • Valuable antiques preserve and honour of the craftmanship. These items will be loved again and again. Antiques are both valuable and durable. They have character and are rare. Even more so, they can an intriguing life-story and the recipient becomes part of the next chapter of the story. There are many amazing pieces of history that need a good home, to be dusted, polished, and treasured again. We don’t need to buy anything new when there is so much stuff from the past crying for understanding and care.
  • Fossils and other historic items need care, you can give these to a friend who will exhibit and value them or you could give a gift of membership to your local museum.
Fossils are treasures
  • Handmade jewellery. For example, Columbia girl makes jewellery is from dried fruits and fruit peel.
  • Handbag or shoe decorations or tags made from nature
  • Bookmarks or spectacle holders made from a recycled necklace

Memorable Experiences

  • Tickets to a museum or for a show (there’s little wrapping or waste, simply pop it in a hand-made card). Incidentally, this is a great last-minute gift.
  • Hire a ride in a vintage car, this is especially good for people who need a special outing but can’t go out for a long period.
  • Photos from their childhood, family members, and travels look great when presented as a small non-plastic poster or collage.
Handmade bespoke earrings at the MONA
  • Hand-made photo frames
  • A real razor blade, not a disposable one.
  • A hamper of luxurious essentials such as under-arm de-odorizing rock salt crystal or natural perfume oils
  • Hiking socks and hikers wool are great for preventing blisters
  • Handkerchiefs or cloth serviettes instead of paper tissues. These are amazingly good finds in the op-shops and markets – You can find some still in their packaging and of very fine quality linen.
  • A silk pillowcase to prevent hair from getting knotty in bed
  • A silk eye pillow with dried herbs and calming oils
  • A basket of homemade ecologically sound cleansers.
  • Cosmetics and toiletries made from natural ingredients and not tested on animals.
  • Their favourite home-cooked meal frozen in a glass resealable serving dish, ready for a weary day. Include the recipe in a card.
  • Food says I love you especially when it is their favourite food
  • A hand made scarf/bow/tie or cloth jewelry bag.
  • A hand-made musical instrument or clothing
Jabuticaba - a decorative shrub with yummy fruits for a gift
Jabuticaba – a decorative shrub with yummy fruits

Homely Gifts

  • A live potted Christmas tree, that can be planted out after Christmas. This could be a native pine. Alternatively you could pot up a large chilli plant full of chillis (for a Summer Christmas – southern hemisphere). Why not dress up a shrub that is full of flowers such as a rose (to make rose syrup and other delicacies)?
  • Homemade preserves and chilli sauces
  • A Packet/s of seeds. OR make a surprise packet out of mixed seeds (check they are all edible in case they are mistaken)
  • Subscription to a seed saving group, soft technology magazines, organic gardening magazines, rare fruits association etc.
  • A donation to a charity such as Tear or other like the organisation on the recipient’s behalf.
  • Hand-made compost bay.
  • Worm farm made from found materials. The Potted worm farm looks great with a plant on top and you can water it whenever you pop over.
  • A non-disposable lunch kit with a thermos or drink bottle, lunch box with separate compartments so no wrap is required, cloth serviettes. You can add a few fasteners to make a cloth serviette into a durable, washable wrap
  • A fountain pen and coloured inks
  • A cup to carry everywhere
handmade gift - tree decoration
Handmade Christmas Decoration
  • Cloth nappies and a pledge to help hang them out.
  • Energy-saving equipment
  • An eco-tour or eco-holiday voucher (you can offer to take them on a bush-walk or holiday or their choice)
  • A voucher to an eco-hair salon
  • Durable garden tools
  • Books on organic gardening, composting, herbs and flowers, native species
  • Field guides on birds and local reptiles
  • Solar charger for phone – this is great to take on a hike, in case you get lost!
    Also, include a flint or even a little survival kit
  • A garden pond with optional solar powered fountain
  • A fruit dryer
  • A yoghurt maker
  • Rechargeable batteries with re-charger.
  • A tent and small, efficient camping equipment. To encourage clean bushwalking and adventure.
  • Dried herbs and flowers from your garden and instructions on their use as a tea.
painting of woman with a potted plant gift
Plants are pretty gifts

Natural Gifts

  • Natural wool or angora sweaters, scarves, hats, gloves, socks.
  • Hand-made baskets, natural fibre washing baskets, paper waste containers, pot plant containers, picnic baskets.
  • Canvas, string or cane shopping bags, ham bag.  Retrofit a supermarket cloth bag with a favourite fabric pocket sewn over the logo as well as a bit of elastic inside. These bags are often too wide and floppy.
  • Potted kitchen herbs in organic potting mix (you could make this yourself).
  • Edible house plants such as sugar cane for hot spots, mint, shallots, monstera vine.
sprouting jar and seeds - a homely gift
Sprouting Jar
  • Gift voucher for nursery plants or environmental products and courses
  • Beeswax or remade candles.
  • Homemade preserves.
  • Hand-painted recycled glassware.
  • Organic Christmas Cake or other special treat.
  • A homemade Christmas wreath of grapevine and other home grown materials.
  • Blankets (cotton or wool) suitable for the lounge and living areas.
  • recycled material turned into Cloth kitchen washers/cloths/ car washers etc. You can simply cut and hem the edges.
https://images.app.goo.gl/CqdZ9T4qWft6revW7 Young Dark Emu - great gift
Young Dark Emu – Great gift for children, science and history

TOYS

Children today are wanting action. Not only do they like action toys, but they also want climate action. Give them less plastic and a cleaner world.

  • Redeemed toys (repainted bicycle, trike, scooter, rocking horse). Use safe paints, preferably organic paint products. These items could be antiques but beware of the toxicity of old paints and any loose parts.
  • Homemade cushions and bean bags with environmentally friendly safe stuffing.
  • A wooden loom and natural fabrics for weaving.
  • A dolls or action figures tent made of recycled fabrics and stakes.
  • Science and Environmental History books such as Young Dark Emu
  • A homemade backyard swing or tree house, a rope climbing apparatus
  • A small gardening kit, tools, and seeds
  • Wooden or cane furniture.
  • seeds for novelty plants such as giant pumpkins.
  • Roller skates or bicycles to encourage energy efficient travel.
  • Recycled or re-used paper fastened as a book.
  • Craft books
  • Weather-proof boots
  • Be wary of giving Pets. Check that the parents want one. Hens, Guinea pigs or Rabbit in hutch will help to mow the lawn
Antique music machine

Re-useable Wraps

Have you noticed how much the packaging is enticing? Some children would rather play with the cardboard box rather than the toy inside. Wrapping doesn’t have to be ripped apart and strewn all over the floor. Start a new tradition of beautiful wrapping that is also part of the gift. Here are some beautiful wrapping ideas:

A Sari is a great wrap for large presents. It can be worn as a dress (it doesn't need sizing) and can be used as a curtain, a tablecloth and much more
Multipurpose Saris and scarves make wonderful gift wraps

Wrap gifts in Re-useable materials

  • Children’s Artworks
  • unused photocopied music scores
  • Material Shopping bags
  • Beach towel
  • Tea towels
  • Hand towel or handkerchief
  • Biodegradable (linen or cotton) tablecloths
  • Sari
  • Beach wrap
  • Scarf
  • Beach towel
  • Picnic rug
  • Natural Fibre placemats ie. Bamboo
A famous antique pearl earring - great gift

When the Festivity has Passed

Feasting Without Waste

Eventually, the time comes to start clearing up and the environment is often burdened. On an average day, in the western world, one-third of all the food grown is simply thrown out. Additionally, the wastage compounds at times of feasting and merriness. At these times, the food wastage dramatically increases. There are, however, simple ways to reduce waste and provide plenty of healthy and delicious meals.

  • Plan your menu
  • Write a Shopping list
  • Measure your serving sizes or let people serve themselves
  • Store Food Correctly
  • Upstyle the leftovers turning them into curries, pies, lasagne, and sauces.
  • Feed old leftovers to your chickens, the worm farm or soldier-fly farm.
Giant pumpkins – a popular novel hobby.

Permaculture Your Inner Landscape

Spontaneity Nurtures Inner Worlds

Professor Stuart Hill, agricultural and soil ecologist, and social-ecologist challenges us all to restore our inner landscape. Stuart reminds us of our formative years. At first, we live with open eyes and a passion to live from the ‘inside-out’. But with conditioning, we learn to live from the ‘outside-in’. He challenges us to regain our spontaneity, curiosity, and honesty. Then we become ourselves and get comfortable with being different. Peaceful diversity enriches us, our relationships, and the world.

Drawing of a young bearded Banana gazing at his own navel, wondering "who am I".

We start life with spontaneity, and our curiosity enables us to appreciate context and environment. And so, we begin to conform. Bit by bit, we learn to live from the outside-in. Over time, our inner child learns to please other people and conform to society.

Tom, a wide-eyed boy, paints his face with mulberry juice

Cultural conditioning, however, prevents awareness. And it blocks our ability to be ‘present in the moment’, and gives away our power. Ultimately, we risk accepting compromises to our ethics and values. ‘Most people will be in denial of this’. states Stuart.

When we recover our spontaneity and curiousity, we are freed.

Prof Stuart B. Hill
Painting of big moon floating over clouds and rolling hills with a curly ladder and spiral slide. Two ladies floating in front of the moon with a teapot, tea cups, a bouquet of flowers, wisps of scented clouds of tea, blue birds and falling petals

Becoming Different Enriches the World

Children around the world are conditioned. They learn to conform. In earnest, the adults aim to keep them safe and well, and help them develop skills. But, it is damaging to their inner landscape. Slowly, the child’s inner landscape becomes patterned. Their responses become habitual. The child begins to seek to please the teacher rather than seek the truth. However, by restoring curiousity, we rediscover our passions.

Openness allows us to be different. And these differences create a robust tapestry of cultures, expertise, history, and knowledge.

Mabel, shares cultural knowledge and scientific studies about uses of anitcancer properties in Jackfruit
Mabel shares her medical training about Jackfruit in cancer treatments.

Understanding and incorporating differences in people helps us to form better teams. Better still, this diversity of approaches and ideas enriches Permaculture design, teaching, and practice.

Weavers at the EcoArts Conference Australis http://www.ecoartsaustralis.org.au/
Weavers at Ecoarts Australis 2019

Power of Collaboration

Stuart urges the Permaculture designers to collaborate more. Designers, clients, and members of the community working together are more effective and their legacy endures. He encourages us to find out what is close to the client’s heart. By kindling the client’s passion, the permaculture design is nurtured and evolves. With joy, the users engage and build competence.

April having fun learning to milk a cow

Focus On Your ‘Exceptional’

Stuart also explores the idea of systems thinking. He argues that anything that is happening in one place in the world is also happening all over. “You will find 20% nasty, evil stuff, 10% really good stuff and the rest is compensatory”. He challenges Permaculture to focus on the 10% really good stuff in order to keep thriving. “All of us have to be awake, attentive, thinking, reflective, and avoid being judgemental”. In fact, we need to forgive the errors of others and not let these turn you away from their gems of insights.

photo of a spiders web in delicate, pink Davidson plum flowers. These fowers, unusually, form on the trunk of the tree.  accompanying quote: "It is the range of biodiversity that we must care for - the whole thing - rather than just one or two stars" David Attenborough

Why Not Worship Gurus

Furthermore, when we search for the top 10% of leaders, we may inadvertently elevate them to guru status. But the problem, according to Stuart, with worshiping ‘gurus’ is that people try to imitate the high level of competence of the guru. Instead, what we really need to uncover is the learning journey taken by the guru. Then, we might discover how they focused on their own 10%. And best of all, how they resisted compromising their values.

Learning about the stages of development of great thinkers, through listening to their background stories, leads us to develop our own story. Nurturing our curiosity, we discover what is interesting to us. We find our own ‘exceptional’.

Work to your own agenda, not someone else’s”

About Stuart B. Hill

Professor Stuart B. Hill is Foundation Chair of Social Ecology at Western Sydney University. At WSU he taught units on Qualitative Research Methodology, Social Ecology Research, Transformative Learning, Leadership and Change, and Sustainability, Leadership and Change (he retired in 2009 and is now an Emeritus Professor in their School of Education). http://stuartbhill.com/

Learn More With Us About Permaculture Design

Rebuilding Community with a Garden

Community gardens are a fantastic way to enrich community health, food security, and forge positive relationships. They also empower, upskill, and foster inclusivity. Through the act of shared care, we develop social skills and pioneer gentle conflict resolution. But don’t think you have to work with your formal community. You can set up a garden on your street that serves the community passively. Even your street garden can peacefully offer free flowers, food, and entertainment.

All around the world, from remote towns to highly-populated cities hide buzzing pockets of community gardens. Permaculture design thinking enriching these structures by applying both physical design tools as well as the principle of care of people. Overall, the best approach for community projects like these is to always act with kindness.

Jill Cockram coordinator for Mossvale Community Garden NSW Australia

10 Tips for Starting a Successful Community Garden

  1. Build Support

Successful community gardens usually have a small, but committed team. Long before you start designing the growing space, build a supportive social network of like-minded folk. Luckily, there are many old hands and spades of advice from community garden associations.

Discover the diversity of skills in your team. Some people will have skills in marketing, fundraising, or seed-saving and composting. By learning from one another, skills are transferred to others and this reduces the risk of burn-out whilst increasing the resilience of the whole group.

Remember to keep everyone well informed so they have the chance to contribute, and celebrate the milestones.

Consulting builds relationships and community resilience
Consulting builds relationships and community resilience
  1. Gather Ideas

Community gardens can take on many different shapes but all need access to sunlight and water. Now that you have the support to make this dream a reality, brainstorm what you want it to look like. How big will the grow space be? How will inputs and harvests be handled? Where will infrastructure like communal gatherings, classes, shed and facilities work best? Gathering this information will help to build your group design.

  1. Check the Paperwork

Paperwork isn’t fun, but it’s necessary. You’ll want protection in case someone gets injured while in the garden or distributing food. Look for insurance options provided by parent organisations.

If you don’t want to do all the start-up paperwork, join a nearby community garden that would benefit with your support.

Put Down Roots

  1. Find a Space

Finding the physical space for the community garden might be the most challenging step. Thankfully, you can start a garden in all sorts of environments, from backyards to abandoned lots. Not all community gardens are formally contracted. Some are on private land, generously supplied by a friendly benefactor. Some may be simply on a space owned by a small group of neighbours with a common boundary.

On the other hand, if you plan to lease the space, opt for a contract that runs at least three years. Because many plant varieties take several years to establish. You don’t want all of your hard work to go to waste if you have to relocate in a hurry.

However, don’t despair, relocatable gardens are also possible as long as you factor this into the design.

  1. Recruit Members

Now that you and your team have a vision, it’s time to enlist help from your community! Reach out to schools, hospitals, clubs, and other organizations to see if anyone is interested in getting involved. In addition, be sure to list the benefits and potential member requirements.

Permaculture Sydney Institute PDC design student delivering the group design
Designing the garden for multi-use, minimal impact and optimal use of natural resources

Permaculture Design Boosts Plans

  1. Plan and Design

Firstly, design to optimise the space for shared resources. Instead of everyone having separate plots, separate goals, aim for healthy conversations, and a shared vision.

Community gardens that share the work and harvest have a far greater total yield. Shared spaces build conversations and deeper cultural understanding.

Then, consult the users in the development of the design. Productive designs fit the landscape shape to make use of gravity and natural resources. Moreso, adaptable design encourages ownership and expertise from the users.

Design for multi-use community garden space

Set Meaningful Goals Rather than Olympic Dreams

  1. Meaningful Goals

What do you want to achieve from this venture? What role will the community play in creating resilience in your area? Listening to the concerns of the project members, the wider community and surrounding neighbours fulfills both permaculture ethics to care for people and care for the environment.

Stronger Together

  1. Build Relationships

Community gardens are often started by passionate individuals hoping to create a beautiful growing space. However, relationships will grow further by inviting people to enjoy the garden, even if they’re not interested in growing anything. So, keep the space flexible. Design for flexibility to support a range of uses. Open the community garden to complementary programs such as outdoor yoga, children’s camps, music performances, or poetry readings. The design for adaptability broadens the yield.

“The Yield Is Truly Unlimited” Graham Bell

  1. Connect With Partners
Build something to crow about

If we calculate the potential of a project in merely energy terms, the potential yield may look quite limited. But actually, the yield is not just measurable in kilojoules. In truth, a garden yield is not the simple sum of the energy-in subtracted from the energy-out. In fact, biology has explosive potential.

Graham Bell stresses that our yield is unlimited because life has exponential growth.

As a result, the yield from a community garden has the potential to be far greater than the effort invested.

And the social implications are immeasurable.

Furthermore, partnering with local businesses and organizations helps to magnify the yield potential. For example, a local business could regularly supply high-value organic waste (such as coffee grinds from nearby restaurants). Eventually, the community garden requires fewer inputs and the partnering business builds a powerful awareness of the value of their waste. The business owners may decide to use their waste to make an onsite garden.

As a consequence, success grows beyond the walls of the community garden.

Mossvale Community Garden beside tennis courts runs food festivals and farmers markets
Mossvale Community
Garden
  1. Establish New Community Ties

Share your message all around the local area. Let people know there’s a local space where they can grow food and friendships. You may be surprised by how many people want to get involved. If you’re lucky enough to have too much food on your hands, find ways to donate leftovers to vulnerable people.

In the end, community gardens provide healthy food and healthy physical activities. They also offer security and self-reliance in uncertain times. Best of all, these social connections nurture our mental health.

Text Coauthored by Emily Folk

Thanks to contributions from Emily who is passionate about environmental sustainability. More of her work can be found on her site, Conservation Folks, or follow her on Twitter for her latest updates.

Set Your Goals Last

Build Values First

Stuart Hill urges us to be driven by our ethics and values, feelings and passions rather than particular goals or resolutions.  By revisiting our ethics and values at the end of the year we can keep the positive fire burning.

By listening to our feelings and passions we give ourselves the energy to create a better future. Though acknowledging our passion we formulate a vision, purpose. Once our passion is invested in our future, we can find energy to develop goals, and sustain the plans and activities.

  1. Self reliant eldersAwaken your ethics and values
  2. Acknowledge your feelings and passions
  3. Research your ideas, visions and design (doing this permaculture course is a critical tool in developing systems thinking and building your own design)
  4. Create action plans
  5. Finally start the regular activities that will help you realise your goals. At the end of each day, set goals that help achieve the actions you set in your plan.

Hill urges us to:  “Act from your core/essential self – empowered, aware, visionary, principled, passionate, loving, spontaneous, fully in the present (contextual) – vs. your patterned, fearful, compensatory, compromising, de-contextual selves”

Core Values for Social Permaculture Design

Every person is different. No two permaculture designers will have the same passions and goals. Here are two different applications of Hills suggestion to act from your core self:

  • Ana* knows her core self [empowered, aware, visionary, principled, passionate, loving, spontaneous, fully in the present] involves working with rare fruits and edible flowers. She builds skills in growing food plants. She also develops her catering projects, observing what drives people to try new foods. She searches for the best way to harvest and cook these unusual foods. Ana strives to find way to integrate rare foods into household gardens and onto the plate.   Finally, she aims to build community awareness.  Whenever Ana has a set-back (like the time vandals broke into the nursery to destroy plants) she listens to her core passion. This gives her energy to mend flaws in her action plan.
  • Zane* knows his core self [empowered, aware, visionary, principled, passionate, loving, spontaneous, fully in the present] loves working with people. He listens and helps them relieve their hunger by helping them to grow food, build water catchment and storage and make efficient stoves. There are more than a few daunting barriers in achieving the long-term goals of this project. The barriers include social perceptions, land access and resources (like seeds and access to water).  Over the years, Chris has some devastating set-backs.  Sadly, the setbacks include natural disasters. He knows these disasters will strike because the projects are on marginal land. Revisiting his core passion gives him some solace. Through re-visiting his core he recharges his passion. With renewed passion he strengthens his action plans.

[*Names have been changed for privacy reasons.]

Discover your core principles and enjoy the discovery.

Happy new year from us at Permaculture Visions.