Urban Permaculture Design Course Review


As you may know, I have just returned from a week of serious learning, having partipated in an Urban Permaculture course run through the Permaculture Research Institute.

Here’s my take on the week that was…

 

The Food Forest

The Food Forest

Settling into the farm nestled in the luscious hinterlands of the Sunshine Coast on a Sunday

afternoon, I propped up my tent unbeknown to me that come the end of the week, I’d be

gloomily taking down that same tent, not because it was soaking wet with morning dew or that my shoes were covered with a build up of cow crap, but because I had to leave the very place that had become a safe haven; a home away from home. In such a short span of time, I would come to learn an unbelieveable amount of knowledge that would have my mind bursting at the seams and my heart overflowing with inspiration.

Tom and Zaia Kendall have established their property as a Permaculture Research Institute and education centre for the Sunshine Coast region. Boasting an abundance of flora and fauna, their property provided a picturesque backdrop and a hands-on experience for a week of learning about all things to do with urban permaculture.

 

The "Classroom"

The semi-outdoor “Classroom”

The first two days were spent learning about Micro Gardening courtesy of Anne Gibson from http://themicrogardener.com/. Her expertise was evident as she shared her extensive knowledge of gardening in small spaces; from creating a nutrient rich soil to seed saving to the many wonderful ways you can recycle materials in your house and turn them into garden pots and utensils.

 

Tom took us under his wings for the remaining 3 days where we delved into more depth about the Permaculture Principles and spent a large portion of time venturing into the community and observing real life projects in the surrounding shire. We wandered around a variety of different community gardens, from the well established to the ones in the early

stages of development and got a good taste of the spawning Permaculture culture in the surrounding areas.

Yandina community gardens

An abundant community garden in Yandina

On top of the course, we were given the opportunity to participate in the day-today farm duties before and after ‘school’. So much to my satisfaction, we were given plenty of time to get our fingernails dirty. Resigning to the fact I probably was not born with the dairy queen touch having scared the poor cows at my latent attempts to milk (I blame my cold hands at that time of the morning), I stuck to the chook duties; collecting eggs and foraging for plants. I absolutely cannot wait to have chooks of my own one day. These little guys could keep me entertained for hours. Like seriously. Who scratches at the dirt like that? They’re so silly.

Harvesting potatoes

Harvesting potatoes

Mingling with the fellow students, WWOOFERS and interns proved to be one of the greatest and most unexpected gifts. We were a varied bunch from all walks of life. I was joined in the course by 6 others. There was the Kiwi Aussie taking leave after a workplace injury, the Californian mother of 4 and avid beekeeper, the Italian ‘Rooster’ & long term intern, the Canadian ex-pat/lifelong travellling english teacher, the Texan who’d been living in Taiwan but was about to return home to his motherland, the Singaporean father embarking on a new life with his family in Cambodia, and humble little me – the city girl from Brisbane.

The experiences and stories passed around the campfire each night really hit home for me. A week with no internet, no facebook, no email and no phone proved to be one of the greatest surprises. I was able to connect with nature, with the people and with myself, on a level that’s so hard to grab a hold of when faced with the infinite numbers of artificial stimulates one experiences moreso from living in the city. Sometimes you really do need to physically tear yourself away from these distractions to get a taste of what it feels like to be at ease, to be at peace with yourself and to fully appreciate nature.

 

By day 2, my circadian rhythm had been restored. I was out like a lamp come 9:30pm and up at the crack of dawn thanks to the crowing Rooster but nevertheless, jumping out of bed with abundant energy. I remember reading somewhere that if you are troubled sleeper, camping is the easiest way to restore your circadian rhythm. I can most certainly attest to this! The simplicity of camping also made it easy for me to not waste time on medial morning tasks and unproductive things like I would at home.

 

Oh, and can I take a moment to rave about the food?! Sure I can, this is my blog. The food was fresh from the garden and wholesome in all its natural goodness. Meal times were always a social event and proved to be our most anticipated moments of the day. Fresh eggs hand collected by a certain someone most mornings, pumpkin porridge, hearty stews, raw cultured butter and cream, roasted garden vegetables and cripsy green salads were just some of the items gracing our dining table.

Marigold the Goat

Marigold the Goat

As you can probably gather by now, I thoroughly enjoyed my time. To me, it was one of those life-altering, aweinspiring, first-taste-of-something-that-you-know-will-change-your-life-forever kind of experiences that you can rave on and on about and people will just roll their eyes at you and think you’re some kooky hippy who had one too many brownies. Am I over inflating myself here like a little kid sucking the helium from a balloon? Not. The. Slightest. Or maybe I’m just a deprived city slicker who needs to get out more. But to that, I protest. Even as a kid I was exposed to the ‘country way of life’ more than most. So whatever. I just think of the millions of other poor sods who have never stared a cow in the eye or hugged a goat. You’re missing out dude.

So in conclusion to this rather, dare I say, poetic post of mine, I’d like to take this opportunity to get all deep and emo with you if you dare to care. For you see, my learning experience extended beyond that which was taught in the course. It’s amazing the little lessons and random musings I collected along the way having the time and freedom to ponder and reflect on life and all that jazz. It all added up to be a big fat whoopie in the face that left a neon ‘Reality Check’ sign smeared across my forehead.

 

  • I am a morning person. I’ve always known this but it often was conditional on a good night sleep and as to what I had to look forward to that day. On the farm, I wasn’t waking to the loud cars or the stinky fumes. Just me and the birds, and the roosters (okay, and the scrapping of the shovel if I opted to sleep in for a few too many moments as the first shift of duties at the cow pen commenced). There’s nothing better than waking up to the singing birds and the cracking dawn of the sun. Nothing. Beats. This.

    The Fruits of our labour - The Herb Sprial

    The fruits of our labour & a Permaculture icon – ‘The Herb Spiral’

     

  • I love eating whole, natural food. Fullstop. It tastes amazing and it feels good. A nourished body can’t help but be filled with a sense of vitality and energy. Thank you very much mother nature. It totally makes sense.

     

  • Technology black holes are a Godsend. No, I don’t need to compulsively check my Facebook feed. No, the world won’t end without me being online. No, my phone won’t self-implode if I don’t reply to messages within a 5 second time lapse. I can live just as contentedly without the constant need to be ‘wired’. Go figure.

     

  • The city is an incubator that breeds and amplifies a lot of things that’s causing us problems as a modern society, such as false expectations for life, social pressures and unhealthy lifestyles. Sin City anyone? It also provides a constant dribble of distractions, entertainment and artificial stimulants that mask themselves as ‘real’ life. Truth be told, these merely stop you from living your real life. *gasp*

     

  • Community is fundamental to our existence. Without the people around us whom we can love and receive love from, we are empty shells. We should be spending more time building these bonds in our communities. Helping. Giving. Sharing.

     

  • We outsource our waste disposal without understanding where it’s going, who it’s effecting and what it’s costing us and the planet in the long term. I’m not just talking you poo poos here folks. Everything that comes packaged, wrapped and shelved and the organic matter we toss in the bin that we should, in fact, be returning to the earth to decompose and be recycled in the ecosystem. Yes, what we take from the earth we should in fact, be returning to the earth.

     

  • The Composting Toilet

    The Composting Toilet

    I take our toilets for granted.

     

  • I take hot water from the tap for granted.

     

  • In fact, I take a lot of things that have to do with convenience for granted!

     

  • Convenience has become our own worse enemy.

     

  • I believe there’s a little part in all of us that craves to connect with nature. It’s in our bio-makeup or whatever fancy scientific term you call it. We are of the earth and we will return to the earth. Therefore, we should be spending more time preserving it than what we spend destroying it.

     

  • We are each empowered with the freedom to radically transform our own lives and this needn’t be complicated or limited to a mere few who choose to meditate for 24 hours of their waking day and are somehow magically at one with the butterfly.
A seat with a view

A seat with a view

 

“Permaculture is a philosophy of working with, rather than against nature; of protracted & thoughtful observation rather than protracted & thoughtless action; of looking at systems in all their functions rather than asking only one yield of them & of allowing systems to demonstrate their own evolutions.”
Bill Mollison, Co-founder of Permaculture

 


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