Sunday, February 28, 2010


I spent my Sunday learning about beekeeping at CERES. It was really fun! The teacher, Lyndon Fenlon, was very knowledgeable about urban beekeeping. We covered a lot and then got kitted up in head nets and gloves and ventured out to say hello to the bees.
I must admit, even though I was covered head to toe, I was a bit nervous about being so close to a few thousand bees. But the bees in the hive I worked on were very chilled out. It had recently been re-queened, and a younger Queen Bee puts out a lot more pheromones so all the drone and worker bees know she's the boss (like Queen Bea in Prisoner) and to stay chilled.
I did the course as I'm interested in using beekeeping in my permaculture plot. They are essential for pollination plus they give the great products of honey and wax. Now I have an appreciation of how much honey they give. They produce so much you have to collect the honey around once a month. Quite a commitment. I'll have to see if I'm up for it in the future.
For now I get to enjoy a tub of honey we harvested today.

A typical urban backyard is allowed to have two hives, according to DPI.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Sustainable Living Festival

I've spent the last few days down at the Sustainable Living Festival, an excellent and varied event for the community. A lot of interesting organisations, both volunteer groups and businesses, have stalls, but I spent more time listening to the interesting array of speakers.
It was a good opportunity to listen to Professor Ross Garnaut delve into his greenhouse emissions research, focusing on transport. One option to reduce our transport emissions is to switch to electric cars. Garnaut pointed out that the electricity supply would have to be from a renewable source. If Victorians switched to electric cars with continued reliance on electricity generated from dirty brown coal, our greenhouse emissions would actually increase.
I was also lucky to hear Peter Singer speak on climate change as an ethical issue and the possible options of how each country could take responsibility for cutting greenhouse emissions. You could look at historical emissions or a future, equal quota up until 2050. By that method, based on current per capita emissions, Australia and USA would run out of its quota in six years, Germany in14 years, China in 24 years and Burkina Faso in over 2000 years (these figures are from my memory). That gives some perspective on each of our ecological footprints!
Both Gilbert Rochecouste from Village Well and Andrew Lucas from Transition Bell both spoke on what I am excited about: relocalising for a resilient, happy community. I really think this enthusiasm can be harnessed to effectively address peak oil and climate change. And have fun while doing it! Transition Bell have organised some really fun activities, including cooking with the local Croatian community. I love their audacious claims to titles such as “Fruit Tree Capital of Geelong”.
David Holmgren, cofounder of permaculture, spoke on designing fire resilient communities and landscapes. He’s a big advocate for designing the home area as the refuge, with a house being surrounded by a food garden creating an effective fire barrier (as you’re very likely to want to water your tomatoes and hence keep the area hydrated). I’ll have to read his “The Flywire House: A case study in design against bushfire”, available as a free eBook and has been reprinted.
I also bought some baby blue organic cotton sheets by Organature to match my hand-woven, naturally dyed bedspread from Guatemala. They use the off cuts for hankies (I have always used hankies over tissues and mine definitely needed replacing). I quizzed a few ecologically minded printers for my future printing needs, Print Together and Complete Colour Printing. And I subscribed to the Earth Garden magazine, which gives some good practical advice on sustainable living, some of which is by permaculture practitioners.

The Earth Garden magazine sitting on my organic sheets and naturally dyed bedspread.

Monday, February 15, 2010

What is Permaculture?

Ok, so I might have my eyes firmly set on a permaculture future and am definitely inspired by it, but what is permaculture?
The word permaculture comes from "permanent agriculture" or even better, "permanent culture".
Permaculture is a design system based on ethics and principles which can be used to establish, design, manage and improve all efforts made by individuals, households and communities towards a sustainable future. Permaculture systems work more like natural systems such as forests than industrial agriculture, requiring no artificial inputs and producing no waste.
The three ethics are:
-care for the Earth
-care for the people
-fair share
The principles are also a great tool in guiding activities. I would recommend David Holmgren's explanation of the principles, complete with a common phrase and picture to illustrate the point. I am quite proud to say that it was two Australians, Bill Mollison and David Holmgren, who cofounded the movement, drawing on the best of traditional and modern knowledge.
Permaculture covers many areas and is not just about organic gardening: it is about living sustainably in a community.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Beginning

After a year away from my sunburnt country, Australia, volunteering in Guatemala at a permaculture institute, my mind is brimming with ideas. And ones that I plan to follow through on. My three projects are:
-start a permaculture plot
-start an organic chutney and tomato sauce business
-import naturally dyed, hand woven textiles from Guatemala
Quite varied, right? I have a year ahead with a very steep learning curve and I'm looking forward to it.
I hope you enjoy sharing my adventure via this blog.
After returning in November 2009 from volunteering at Instituto Mesoamericano de Permacultura (IMAP), San Lucas Tolimán, Guatemala, I did my Permaculture Design Certificate at Mulloon Creek Natural Farm with Geoff Lawton. So I've at least started on my permaculture future.
Next is to learn about small business.