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.

Learning in Grass Room

Rose and the big leaf

child looking in wonder Learning – Out of this World

In outdoor spaces the learning experience is different. The air can be refreshing and the noise stops bouncing off the walls. Being outdoors boosts our physical and mental health. Best of all, we can create an opportunity to slow down and reduces stress for students and their teachers!

Lower the Maintenance, Up the Rewards

Mesh tables positioned over narrow garden beds are a great way to reduce clean-up time and conserve precious soil. Furthermore, the garden beds are tucked away safely from accidental damage by foot-traffic.  On sloped sites, the ideal position of the table is along the contour.  This provides a choice of access points. In addition to the good water management and plant protection, students can choose their preferred work height.

mesh table saves soil and clean-up time after learning

A Safe and Secure Glade

Boundary plantings enable everyone to relax and enjoy the learning space. When we set boundaries, children feel free to wander and explore within that space. The student no longer needs to look back to the teacher for consent about where they may wander.

Design a bountiful and safe learning glade. These edges can contain a richly layered thicket of trees, shrubs, vines and tall grasses. Furthermore, edge plantings help to soften the boundary and can provide a sense of coziness and belonging.  Tall edge plantings can also provide wind protection. Sissinghurst Gardens achieve a sense of enchantment and familiarity by incorporating old walls and furniture shapes in the outdoor ‘rooms’.

setting boundaries provides safe learning spaces

Education and Food – Get a Double Helping

savouring-jackfruitFood defines our culture. It also unites people. Nearly everyone has opinions on foods and a curiosity about how it grows. The beauty of putting food plants in the learning environment is that they are generally safe plants. You could include useful plants that are non-toxic, non-irritant and low in allergy risk. Here is our list of permaculture plants for warm temperate zone.

Tall useful plants include sunflower, Jerusalem artichoke, Yacon, giant sage, bamboo for poles to make tents, flags, arches, trellises and garden-edge fencing. Good plant species for weaving projects include mulberry and sturdy vines such as grape-vine, kiwi-fruit, passion-flower.  The garden classroom can be a great resource for learning about construction techniques of aboriginal and other traditional shelters.

There are some exciting food plants. These include native foods (bush tucker and survival foods), culinary flowers and exotic spices.

Playful Spaces

Playful spaces have viewing platforms, resting nooks, perches, undulating paths and sweeping curves. In addition to your resilient and engaging landscape, you can add toys like little bridges, solar fountains, windmills, flags, scare-crows, signs, arches, ponds with hand-pumps, cascades and Archimedes screws.

snake-paths mounded garden beds for good water management

Make Your Outdoors Great

Great spaces have two vital features: function and creative flair. The functional elements include paths that run along the contour. This provides good water management, erosion control and conservation of nutrients.  The functional garden harvests, absorbs and directs water. Furthermore, the beds trap silt, build soil and fertility.

Creative play enhances functionality.  For instance, the functional paths can double as seating spaces for an audience. The stage can be a simple platform below. This platform can also be multi-functional. It can be used as a demonstration space, meeting point,  a bird-hide, construction space (using construction plants like sunflower stems) or a work-zone.

Ultimately, the garden becomes a thriving space for creative and imaginative play.


Build your own permaculture system. Enjoy learning permaculture with us.

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