Permaculture Hastings


Permaculture is dead, long live permaculture

Filed under: Uncategorized — gbell12 @ 9:42 am

In some ways, I’ve lost faith in permaculture.  Here’s why.

Bad Rep

The more people I talk to, the more people I realise think of permaculture as a pseudo-scientific, crystal-infused hippy movement.

That’s a shame, since the biggest names like Bill Mollison and Geoff Lawton have worked hard to refute that view.

Now, when I meet a scientist, I don’t tell them we’re employing permaculture practices because I don’t want to be dismissed.  I put other words around it.  We’re using Nature to heal this land.  We’re attempting to bring productivity back to it.  We’re planting trees.

Unmovable Culture

The more people I talk to, the more people I realise don’t really care.  They care about size of their TV screens, and all the usual stuff our consumer culture is criticised for.

Disappointing Results

In seven years, our results have been mixed, and slow.  What we have gained has been the result of lots and lots of labour.  Weeding, tree guards, wallaby chasing, more weeding, grass pulling, experiments, hauling water… you get the idea.

You know, for most of human history, Nature was seen not as a gentle, wounded, creative force in need of protection, but as the source of death, destruction, pain and illness.  While humanity now seems to have “won”, and Nature’s clearly on a back foot, I’m not sure she’s really changed her outlook on humanity and our activities much.

Some examples:

  • “Easy” plants get eaten by rats (sure, even with a cat, maybe we have a “cat deficit”.  The problem is the solution, we’ll just barbeque rats.)
  • Create some habitat, and the pests come in droves – finally a food source!
  • Not all weeds are opportunistic healers – some are dominators and destroyers (privet).
  • Plant a tree, feed a wallaby.  Plant a hundred trees, fee a hundred wallbies.
  • Leave things be, enjoy your resulting Kikuyu or privet monoculture.

So to get any gains, we find ourselves battling Nature.  That’s not keeping the faith.

False Advertising

It’s clear that the most prominent permaculture successes are fuelled by large amounts of inputs – money, time, effort, materials, seeds, plants.  And I think there’s been some false advertising.  In Geoff Lawton’s DVD on building swales, he shows a head-high, diverse swale planting that’s 6 months old.  Excited by this, we set out to do our own in a similar climate.  Six years on, ours are just starting to look like that.  When I bring this up with the experts, without evidence they accuse us of not planning right, or not executing right.

Working for Money

And finally, living cheaply is hard to do.  All family members have to be on board, and have to be willing to swim against the dominant culture.  You have to eschew most/all of the shiny gadgets, and the services that go with them.  You have to take risks by not having insurance.  You probably have to limit you life experiences by not travelling to far away places.

How many frugal living examples do you know of?

If you don’t live cheaply, then you must work for money, and that can easily take most of your time – that’s time away from working on your permaculture property, and your results will suffer.

Long Live Permaculture

And yet, permaculture is, by definition, exactly what it takes to save humanity.  It’s not married to any one technique or ideology.  If something else comes along that matches the three principles, then that’s permaculture.  Logically, it’s as unassailable as its ethics are.

So we continue on, perhaps not proudly aligning ourselves with the term and the baggage that goes along with it.  Chemical free, nature away, systemically thinking, because that’s the only ethical way, while we hope we have enough time – more than 6 months – to reap the benefits.



Cheese Making workshops

Filed under: Uncategorized — gbell12 @ 10:43 am

Making food is closely related to permaculture since you’re often using locally sourced ingredients and often there are social events around the making and eating of that food. Try and wrap that up in plastic, Big Food! When you know how to make food you can keep unhealthy ingredients out of your diet, and you’re less reliant on the big, possibly fragile, industrial food system.

If any of that clicks with you, you might be interested in learning how to make your own cheese from Lyndall Dykes, an artisan cheesemaker based in Coffs. She’s running the following workshops in the area. Also note that you can buy cheesemaking supplies (and kits!) from her website

4th, 5th & 6th Feb 2012 Armidale

5th & 6th February 2012 Tamworth

17th & 18th Frebruary 2012 Port Macquarie

20th & 21st February 2012 Forster Tuncurry

2nd, 3rd, 4th & 5th March 2012 Gold Coast

17th & 18th March 2012 Bathurst

24th & 25th March 2012 Port Macquarie

23rd & 24th March 2012 Batemans Bay

25th March 2012 Nowra

26th March 2012 Kiama


Ready to start a group?

Filed under: Uncategorized — gbell12 @ 7:31 pm

When I first reserved this address on WordPress and wrote a few posts, I wasn’t intending to write a lot. I set the site up as a “honeypot”. Something for people to find when searching Google for permaculture in the region.

It’s served that purpose OK – over the time it’s been up, the site’s brought me in contact with a few interested people. The most serious permaculturalists I found ended up not buying property nearby.

The eternally optimistic IEA, always predicting huge future increases in oil production, dropped a bombshell on Catalyst this month. They’re not only admitting Peak Oil is a possibility, but they’re saying it’s already happened – in 2006.

That’s just one of many stories that’s hit the airwaves recently pointing out the urgency of coming problems and the  importance of solutions to the unfolding Peak Oil dilemma. Permaculture is one of those solutions.

So the time is ripe for us to gather, officially. Anyone in the Hastings region who has a PDC: I need you to join with me in creating a proper Permaculture Hastings group. Contact me and let’s get started!


Jasper’s Village

Filed under: Uncategorized — gbell12 @ 11:50 pm

I recently had an hour long conversation with Phil of Jasper’s Village Resort which is a yoga resort 56 km west of Wauchope here in the Hastings.

While yoga doesn’t have much to do with permaculture, Phil certainly does. And people interested in one are often interested in the other. Phil’s putting together an ecovillage and is on a fast pace to developing his property as a permaculture property. He and I discussed the possibility of hosting PDCs and permaculture intro courses there. He’s a dynamo of energy and has his head in the right space. Members of the ecovillage come from all walks, and one was on his way to do a PDC soon.

Besides being a working resort already (they’ve only been there 18 months), he’s also managed to engage Dr Andrew Katelaris, NSW’s premier hemp expert. A plot of hemp is approved and the village is looking to be able to process it, build with it, and any of the other amazing things you can do with the hemp plant’s products.

Our property isn’t anything of a showcase as I work the pastures with cell grazed cattle, weeds, and whatever trees and elephant grasses I can get to survive. Much is in the “someday” category as we work on our property plan, make ends meet, and get young trees in the ground. So while we can’t host PDCs until we look a bit more like a permaculture property, keep your eye on developments at Jasper’s Village Resort as it becomes a permaculture hub in the region. Don’t forget the yoga either!


Another source of native trees

Filed under: Uncategorized — gbell12 @ 7:56 pm

Thanks to an ad in the local paper, I recently discovered local resource Chris Scott of the Sustainable Natural Resources Group. He’s a small operation, but sells tube stock and offers advice on revegetation, shade and shelter design, etc.

His species list lists over 65 species available!

He’s in the Taree area. Contact him at 0428 860 639.


Scything away on the downslope

Filed under: Uncategorized — gbell12 @ 2:32 pm

When oil production peaks, its likely that use of the precious substance may be restricted to agriculture – and while it survives, that may mean “big ag”.  As a small landholder, you may find your access to petrol rationed, if not by government, by price.

As we surf the downslope of the oil production curve, we’ll be rediscovering low fossil-fuel methods of doing things.  Scythes may be a big part of that.

Scythes are basically a big blade on the end of a handle, and they’re used to mow grass by hand.  Sound horrendous?  It doesn’t appear to be.  Have a look at videos on Youtube, and you’ll see that its a weird mix of ergonomics, Tai-chi and a sharp blade.  The energy expended is as low as it can be.

Located in Mudgee area, Scythes Australia sell everything you need – and you need a surprising amount.  You need a blade, a handle.  Then you need some gloves to protect your hands while sharping the blade with a whetstone.  Then you need a holder for your whetstone because it needs to be “whet”.  Then there’s the “peening jig” for more serious sharpening.

Its all a bit technical and overwhelming, but in the end you end up with a tool that you can maintain, which should last a lifetime.

Dan and Nicole run Scythes Australia, and they’re also farming using organic and alternative methods.  Building soil and fertility and steering clear of the chemical treadmill that’s the road to ruin for many of Australia’s farmers.  They’re knowledgeable and are building a network of like-minded people in the Mudgee area, including forming a “Microscope club” which meets to explore the microbial action in compost and compost teas.

I ended up ordering my snaths (handles) from them – two for good measure.  But unfortunately I ordered the remainder of my gear from a US supplier because, even after shipping, it was still cheaper.  And the fellow spent a lot of time working with me up front.

So file another local Permaculture resource:


Announcing Permaculture Hastings!

Filed under: Uncategorized — gbell12 @ 12:10 pm

Permaculture Hastings has launched! We’re bringing together people interested in sustainability from Port Macquarie, Wauchope, Comboyne, and Lake Cathie.

The first project is an extensive Permaculture Library that is available to you if you are in the Hastings region and join Permaculture Hastings.

Permaculture is a contraction of Permanent-Culture … in other words sustainability.  Permaculture is a design system and philosophy, working with and within Nature.  I firmly believe the long-term sustain of society should be the single most important issue at all levels of government and culture.  Environmental problems are huge and daunting, but Permaculture provides many of the answers.

My hope for starting Permaculture Hastings is to bring together people interested in all things sustainable.  Permaculture concerns itself with food, energy, water, shelter, and social structures.  We will create food forests, make organic vegie gardens, implement renewable energy systems, learn and network.

I also hope to be a networking hub for any and all activities related to sustainability in the area. For example: seed exchange groups, renewable energy mobs, local organic farmers, etc. See what I’ve found so far here.

If you’d like to contact me, I’m at (02) 6585 6516.  I can also be reached at permaculturehastings at gmail dot com.  You may also post a comment below.  I’d love to hear from you and start things rolling!

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