Tuesday, 16 June 2015

The history of the Permaculture Zone at Green Gathering - and what's in store this year!

By Permaculture Association member and Permaculture Zone Coordinator Tammi Dallaston

Green Gathering's Permaculture Zone - a place to learn, get involved, and meet new friends!

From its roots at Lower Pertwood Farm in the late 1990s, the permaculture area at the Green Gathering (formerly Big Green Gathering) has always sought out and linked permaculture practitioners in the UK and beyond.

Our original gardens were designed by Patrick Whitefield, Ken Fern (Plants for a Future), Helen and Jim Morris-Ridout (Copper Beech designs), and Tammi Dallaston (Made in Mach), and tended by many many volunteers over the years. Since the festival moved to Somerset, and latterly Chepstow, the permaculture area has relied on temporary displays, engaging speakers and a diversity of practical workshops.

At our new home in Chepstow, the permaculture area is billed as a temporary intentional community. We eat together, organise our days together, freely ask for and offer help, and showcase an inclusive way of life that can be possible with the three permaculture tenets: earth care, people care and fair shares.

This year the Permaculture Area will incorporate a Green Parenting space, Forest School, Willing Workers On Organic Farms (WWOOF) stall, Permaculture Association and International Permaculture Convergence info, Patrick Whitefield Memorial, Organic Tannery, free Seed Swap, wood-powered thermo-electric and solar phone charging, and a fireside space for conversation, singing and plotting…

PLUS workshops, to include:
Introduction to Permaculture: by Mike Feingold; meet him on youtube

Ecovillage Living: a daily workshop discussing ecovillage living, Welsh planning law, designing your dream home/community, and life in the Lammas ecovillage, by Tao and Hoppi Wimbush

Growing for Preserving: see permacultureplate.blogspot.co.uk

Dynamic Woodland Management: using Permaculture Principles, with Stephen Watts

Not yet a member? Join today!

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Teaching holistically and making the most of your experiences

by Wenderlynn Bagnall

My journey as a Permaculture designer and educator has taken many directions. There have been times however when I have questioned the direction I was taking, leaving me wondering not just if I was capable of becoming a designer but more importantly whether being a Permaculture teacher was for me. 

Over the last couple of years I have seen and felt myself evolve into an imaginal cell, becoming part of the wings of change. I had hoped that attending the Permaculture Educators Course (PEC) in Friland, Denmark would give me the answers I needed.

Being a member of the Permaculture Association offers numerous opportunities. For me, one of these was applying for funding to attend the Permaculture Educators Course. I'd completely forgotten about it when I received an email in March to say I'd got the funding. I was very excited: it was a great opportunity to develop my skills as a permaculture practitioner. 

Once I had settled down from the excitement, I started to panic. The gremlins were here! Some of these gremlins have been with me since school. I was anxious about stepping out of my comfort zone and leaving behind what was familiar to me but... I wanted to experience what was on the other side of this fear. So I began to ignore the voices in my head. Every day I did something towards my trip to Denmark, always imagining myself doing the things I was afraid of. It began to get easier. I booked my flight and made a list of things I needed. 

With the support of my husband Iain and his understanding of my fears, I was ready to step off the edge and journey into the unknown.

For me the PEC was more than a course about how to teach holistically, it was a discovery of where I've been, who am I and what comes next. It was also a good exercise in helping me deal with my severe anxiety.

I hoped that by using the 5 ways to wellbeing I could make the most of this experience and put some of my gremlins to rest. 

1 . Connect: "Connect with the people around you... Think of these as the cornerstones of your life and invest time in developing them." 

I feel this is quite appropriate within Permaculture and... for me it was especially relevant to the PEC. I found bonds that were like family and created friendships that now reach all corners of the earth. The internal community within the group was paralleled with the intentional community of Friland. I took valuable lessons away with me on what's important in building community. This was helpful as a facilitator to the North Devon Permaculture Network which I initiated as one of my diploma projects. There is now a Facebook group dedicated to PEC 2015, (Permaculture Educators 2015). We can now stay connected, building and maintaining the new relationships made. 

2 . Be Active: "Go for a walk or run. Step outside. Cycle. Play a game. Garden. Dance....." 

Games, activities and being outside were an important part of how we learned and had down time. From a limbo dancing to a morning walk on the beach, the course was filled with opportunities to be active and spend some time with nature. On the final night, we were celebrating our achievements not only on the course but of the work we are all doing to spread Permaculture around the world. 

As children we learn to use play as a way of communicating and developing who we become in later life. As adults play is just as important. It helps us to relax, learn and connect with others as well as reconnect to the child within ourselves. 

3. Take Notice: ".....Remark on the unusual..... savour the moment....reflecting on your experiences will help you appreciate what matters to you." 

Friland was indeed an unusual place. The community was filled with 'artists', people who had used their creativity to construct their own homes. Some had used Christopher Alexander's pattern language for the basis of their designs. 

I was amazed at how completely 'free' it felt to see people being able to express themselves in the architecture of their homes. I enjoyed every moment walking round Friland, from gates made with bikes, to houses built inside a green house. 

My walks in the mornings and evenings with 'my house mate', Norah, gave the opportunity to take in the surroundings of where we were staying. We were lucky enough to be able to view Friland from afar. We saw it in its glory at sunrise and sunset and one on special occasion we shared seeing a deer together. I did indeed take notice.
A gate made from a bicycle. "Remark on the unusual"
4. Keep Learning: "Try something new. Rediscover an old interest. Sign up for that course...... learning new things will make you more confident........." 

The diversity of cultures of the participants added an edge to my experience. Learning how to facilitate with someone, regardless of the language they spoke, wasn't a barrier. From learning the Theory of Learning to sharing different teaching styles and techniques, the course showed us how to use Permaculture to deliver an holistic approach to teaching. Cat and Andy, (whom I've collectively now named Candy), facilitated a structured, yet fun, creative approach to their delivery. From planning a course to untangling human knots, we were guided each session towards becoming Permaculture Educators. 

A couple of phrases stuck out for me during the course:
"If a student participates from the beginning then they will participate all the way through," 


"Just do it!" 

I knew I wanted this course to mean something so I reminded myself of the former whenever I felt a little 'shy'. I wanted to 'learn' as much as I possibly could, not only about being a Permaculture teacher but about myself. I did indeed rediscover that I was more than capable of being a teacher, it being something I have wanted to do since my children were small. I found my confidence again. Both phrases are not only good for the course but great mantras for getting you through life and towards your goals. 

5. Give: "Do something nice for a friend, or a stranger. Thank someone. Smile. Volunteer your time......" 

A morning on the beach
A great ending to my time in Denmark and the PEC was the opportunity to share my knowledge with Danish people outside of the course. Emilia, a course participant, shared her couchsurfing hosts with Flo and myself. Before the course we had decided to extend our stay in Denmark to experience the culture of Aarhus. 

The hosts were keen to have us share our Permaculture knowledge with them. So in exchange for their songs and accommodation, (and as if by commission), we not only gave them some garden design advice and Permaculture resource information but we showed them our PEC presentations. They seemed to absorb our skills and knowledge with glee. Our time with them ended with an exchange of gratitude and seeds. 

For me there were many aspects of learning during my time in Denmark. I learned that by truly facing my fears I can overcome them and discover what I'm capable of. I learned to trust Flo and Emilia with their nomadic travelling experience; thanks guys for guiding me through Aarhus. 

I learned that we CAN change our life story any time. Our negative experiences don't have to hold us prisoner. Most of all I've learned that I can be the best Permaculture teacher I want to be. 

Being a member of the Permaculture Association gave me the opportunity to attend this course. I'm sure at some stage, I would have found the answers to my questions, but I'm glad that it was through the PEC 2015 that I received them. My advice to anyone who wants to have the same opportunity is.... "just do it!", join the Permaculture Association

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

News from Nepal

by Chris Evans, Himalayan Permaculture Centre

Damage to neighbours of Sunrise Farm
You will all have heard about the massive earthquakes that hit Nepal on 25th April and again on 12th May. It’s sobering to think that as permaculturalists we strive to design resilience into our systems, but here’s Gaia showing us that no matter what we do there’s very little to prepare for the forces of nature that rent herself apart. 

Nearly 10,000 dead (they still haven’t reached some villages and recovered all the bodies) and up to half a million homes destroyed and needing to be rebuilt. The emphasis is still on relief as I write this, and providing shelter the priority, with the monsoon rains looming.

Firstly and thankfully no one from the Himalayan Permaculture Centre (HPC) or indeed any of the permaculture-related initiatives have been hurt.

For HPC the loss has been of Sunrise Farm in Kathmandu which was damaged in the first earthquake and more so in the second, and will have to be pulled down. The livestock shed was also demolished and the various land demonstrations on the Resource Centre (RC) – the only functioning organic farm/permaculture demonstration and training centre in Kathmandu – were trashed when hundreds of people sought open space away from buildings (who can blame them?), and the farm – because it is a farm – had the only space around.

Refugees on the farm
Despite the priority for relief that is still current, thoughts are turning to reconstruction and not only about earthquake-resilient structures but also how these are integrated with other aspects of sanitation, energy, food security, finance and the like. The chance to rebuild in a holistic way presents itself as an opportunity to rise out of the destruction.
"The chance to rebuild in a holistic way presents itself as an opportunity to rise out of the destruction."

To this end various individuals and organisations are looking for collaboration to plan a permaculture response.

If people are interested to support financially or otherwise, there are 2 places I would recommend:

The Kamala Foundation headed by Zac Barton, a PDC graduate on his diploma pathway, coordinating KFs direct relief efforts that have so far provided food, tarps, bedding, solar lamps & phone chargers to over 800 households (about 4800 people), and looking to engage other related groups in a design for long term resilience planning – see above.

Sunrise Farm – to rebuild the farm as a functioning demo and training farm, acting as a Kathmandu Hub for the above initiative. SF is a partner of and supported by HPC. It has been a working demo farm for over 20 years, modelling Fukuoka non-till rice, SRI, agroforestry, bio-intensive no till vegetables, biogas and a host of other technologies to thousands of visitors, from tourists to remote hill farmers. 
To donate to Sunrise Farm you can go through the Permacultre Association's website here and pick Himalayan Permaculture Centre.

Both The Kamala Foundation and Himalayan Permaculture Centre/Sunrise Farm have opportunities for volunteers skilled in building (including architecture), engineering, healing (in the broadest sense), fundraising, IT/communications, and of course networking itself.

There are a host of other places to donate, most doing good work and some looking to link up with an integrated approach.

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Permaculture Day 2015: In Support of Soil Report - call for more contributions!

By Nicola Bell, Membership Coordinator

A huge thank you to those of you who helped more people to hear about the benefits of permaculture on International Permaculture Day! 

You were part of 200 events and actions in 43 countries - thank you for making them happen!

Please help the International Permaculture Day 2015 team to compile photos, videos and stories for the International Permaculture Day 2015: In Soil Supporters Report - click here to contribute.

Some Permaculture Association members have already shared their successes with the network:


Abundant Earth, Co Durham:
It may have been freezing cold but around 70 of you came to the Abundant Earth open day today....Thanks for your effort and your company! 
The day coincided with International Permaculture Day. This year the focus was on soil and Wilf gave tours and talks throughout the day relating to this topic. 
Children ate fairy cakes and bounced on the trampoline, some of them bottle fed the lambs and planted flowers. 
Mark and Vicky brought their biochar demonstration which was incredibly informative and lots of people now have a biochar sample. 

Matt giving a wood turning demo at Abundant Earth
Matt made a beautiful bowl on his pole lathe for all see. Beth tried to weave on the peg loom but it was a bit chilly! 
Lashings of hot tea was freely available and tasty cakes were for sale; a percentage of which we will send to the Kathmandu Earthquake fund.
Mike and Vicky demonstrating bio char at Abundant Earth
We also sold our eggs, salad and some of west ridings organic compost.
There were a great deal of leaflets and books to browse and there was a dvd playing about permaculture and soil.
Our next open day is on Sunday September 6th! Save the date!!!

Pennerley Permaculture Project, Shropshire:
We had 14 people come for a two hour tour of the plots and forest garden followed by tea, cake and discussion. A good time was had by all. One person e-mailed after to say, "We just wanted to drop you a brief note to say a real big thanks for your time and insights on Sunday – packed full of gems and golden nuggets and very much appreciated."

Glengall Wharf Garden & Burgess Park Food Project, Peckham:
Worries about the weather disappeared almost as soon as we came on site – the afternoon was fresh and glorious. A great turn out of people, lured by the promise of learning more about soil and how to manage it meant we got lots done and ate well. Read more on the blog...
Searching for frogs at Glengall Wharf, Peckham

The Grange, Norfolk

Over three days we stock fenced over 200 metres of meadow, built a new plinth base for the yurt, potted on at least 100 courgette and squash plants, built a rocket stove, weeded the herb garden and cut and split over a tonne of wood. But it wasn’t all work…on Sunday night we fired up the cob oven and cooked some delicious pizzas before watching a film on the projector and each day was punctuated by wonderful food and conversations.

After three tiring but exhilarating days our project here seems possible again, at least for a little while. But it won’t be long before another blitz is needed – and we will put out the call for help once more!
Tom and Ben putting the finishing touches to some stock fencing at The Grange
Ian making pizza for dinner at The Grange

I did a workshop on Edible Landscapes at the local "Spring Greens" Festival, with about 20 people. The festival's theme was "the land" and it  also had presentations by Chris and Looby on their new Applewood project, by Simon Fairlie on land rights, a permaculture stall by Roz Brown as well as many other stalls and events. 700 people attended - great success!
The Beautiful Spring Greens Fair 2015


Mike Pope, Lancashire
The course went really well, lots of positive feed-back, (thank you for the material you sent). Two of the participants came as a result of seeing it on the Permaculture Association website. 
We covered the meaning and ethics of Permaculture in the morning, ending with a presentation of an eco-renovation of a terraced house from our friend Andy Hunt.
The afternoon was a discussion and videos of the principle of forest gardening, followed by a trip to our forest garden (hopefully soon to be a Land Centre). On the Sunday we had a volunteer session at the garden which was well attended. We hope to run another similar event in the autumn. 

Offshoots Permaculture Project, Lancashire
Victoria Woods and Phill Dewhurst spoke at the Alternatiba event in Todmorden on Sunday 3rd May.

The talk was well attended with over 40 people and standing room only at the venue, Todmorden Town Hall

The presentation was an introduction to Permaculture with a focus on soils and positive solutions and Offshoots Permaculture Project
For about 45 minutes we gave out information and answered questions, showed a short 6 minute film of Offshoots as well as publicised the next local Permaculture Design course starting Saturday 6th June 2015

If you'd like to learn more about permaculture demonstration sites like these, or to find one near you, check out the LAND network.

Please help the International Permaculture Day organisers by sharing your stories and photos, so that we can celebrate everyone's involvement! 

We also have also set up a Flickr album to share activities that happened across the network, so feel free to send more to us at the Permaculture Association.

If you would like to host a talk, course, festival, tea party, seed swap or anything else for International Permaculture Day 2016, please let us know!