Posted by & filed under Podcasts.

Geoff Lawton (Photo © Craig Mackintosh)

It should all be fun. If you’re having fun you’ve got the design right. If you’re not having fun you have the design wrong. Sit down, have a cup of tea and think about it. — Geoff Lawton

Geoff Lawton joins me today to talk about permaculture. Geoff talks about his early days in permaculture, where we are in permaculture today, and where we need to go in the future. He touches on what he has learned along the way and what he finds most valuable.

Geoff then goes on to answer a lot of audience questions about tree systems, water harvesting, his new chicken tractor for composting, and his upcoming online PDC.

Click on the play button below to listen to our conversation!

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Posted by & filed under Community Projects, Demonstration Sites, Education Centres.

Hi Y’all, Albert Bates here. For most of my life I have been working on ideas that could make the world a little better — more fair, more free, more ecologically and economically sustainable, and more fun. In 1972, straight out of law school, I joined The Farm, an experimental utopian hippy community in Summertown, Tennessee. I know, say what you will about hippies, but the fact of the matter is, we got many things right, and even when we were making pretty dumb mistakes, our hearts were in the right place. The Farm is one of the better things that emerged from the Sixties, and it has now become an award-winning ecovillage and a widely-replicated model of climate-aware, limits-aware, 21st century living.

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Posted by & filed under Consumerism, Economics, Global Warming/Climate Change, Peak Oil, Society.

Only a few are willing to risk arrest for the sake of an utopian outcome. Ted ‘The Unabomber’ Kaczynski obviously occupies the upper right corner. Starhawk, Bill McKibben and David Graeber are not lighting any fuses but at least have what they think are better plans, or maybe just better processes.

Our post stirred the hornet’s nest and so we have found it necessary to revisit those star charts and try to probe their signs and portents with renewed care.

First, we have to acknowledge that our scatter chart has no basis in actual data. It is merely a mind map, and as such it has its uses and its limitations. The map is not the territory, as we know, so what is it? Mostly, it is a way to visualize complex relationships and hopefully gain insight that doesn’t just pop out from a photograph, the written word or columns of numbers.

In this case, we were attempting to depict where David Holmgren’s shift in strategy took him within the matrix of climate/peak oil prognosticators. We were using charts to illustrate that he had shifted from advocating passive transformation to urging proactive crash.

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Posted by & filed under Community Projects, Eco-Villages, Society, Village Development.

I first got into permaculture in my late teens — being introduced to it by a friend who was also learning about it and working on an edible garden. It wasn’t a simple, house backyard garden, though, but part of a multi-cultural intentional community that was just starting out. While not an eco-community per se, this group was hard at work to commit to a more sustainable lifestyle, and gardening was encouraged and supported through various means. As a 17-year-old kid, the freedom of having full reign over gardening space was amazing and empowering. Over the course of the next three years I experimented and explored permaculture, sometimes with friends, often by myself. Even before going on to take my PDC, it became clear to me that there was much more to permaculture than the spirit and art of gardening, weeding, and designing raised beds. There is also the equally exciting and terrifying social factor.

It was an enriching and dynamic environment, with such a disparate cast it seemed like something out of a movie. It included, at intersecting points in time, three goats, seven ducks, 15 chickens, two to three dogs, a cat, and anywhere from 10 to 25 people. With all of its beauty, tempers and ideologies often clashed when concerning the gardens and animals, and what directions, tools and languages were to be used as we moved towards a greener and more aware lifestyle. Not everybody knew (or wanted to know!) about gardening and permaculture.

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Posted by & filed under Soil Biology, Soil Composition, Soil Rehabilitation, Structure, Working Animals.

The last post of Phillip Bradley was about no till farming practices, cover cropping and direct sowing. We have farmers in France doing this also. They are very active, always testing new cover crops and different ways to work. Here is their site, with plenty of videos — sometimes in English, usually in French. These French farmers are passionate about worms — because worms work for them all the time. As we know, they aerate the soil by creating channels, they break down plant material and they mix clay and humus — but did you actually see them at work yet?

Take a look at the two videos on this page. The first is in English (top) and the second in German. Don’t worry, you don’t need to understand the German narration.

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Posted by & filed under Livestock, Village Development, Working Animals.

Water Buffalo have been a community staple throughout Southeast Asia for centuries, especially in Thailand where the largest agricultural export is rice. Not only are buffaloes used as animal traction, but they also provide sources of food, such as meat and milk, as well as producing copious amounts of dung which is used as fertilizer and as a fuel when dried.

Until recent decades, Thailand had the highest water buffalo population. It has declined from seven to two million over the span of 30 years as a result of the mechanization (motor driven tillers aka “the mechanical buffalo)” and an exodus of small farmers.

As a means to avoid the continued loss of this national symbol, the state decided to promote this amazing animal by creating the Royal Buffalo "Bank". There are now over 100 banks across Thailand. The buffalo are lent to farmers that do not have their own and are given three years to breed and care for the offspring to increase their income.

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Posted by & filed under Consumerism, Economics, Global Warming/Climate Change, Peak Oil, Society.

Rather than spurning financial system terrorists, Holmgren urges activists to become “terra-ists”; to directly bring down the system by thousands of acts of economic disobedience.

A ferment in the environmental movement, brewing for many years, has now bubbled up into the blogosphere. We are dipping our ladle in here to take a little taste of it, even though we are quite certain it is not done fermenting.

Bill McKibben has been stirring the wort of whether social activism can save us for many years. In Eaarth: Making Life on a Tough New Planet, as in The End of Nature a quarter century earlier, he poignantly waffled, in elegant prose, between hope and despair. Since launching — “the first political action with a number for a name” — he has urged those of us with any remaining shred of hope for our children’s future, given what we now know about climate change, to step up and lay our lives on the line. Get arrested. Risk lengthy jail terms and even death to stop this atrocity. Do not go gentle into that good night.

Words to this effect we have heard much longer and louder from Derrick Jensen, another eloquent writer, the difference being that McKibben advocates for non-violence in the mold of Gandhi and King, while Jensen has no qualms about advocating violence. Naomi Klein, another stirring writer with an arrest record, calls for acts of resistance large and small. McKibben is tepid about taking on capitalism’s growth imperative, as though it were not a major contributing factor, while neither Holmgren, Klein nor Jensen have any such reservations.

Thus we are tasting many different flavors of leadership, or literary guidance, in the shaping of the nascent climate resistance movement.

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Posted by & filed under Commercial Farm Projects, Community Projects, Markets & Outlets, Village Development.

by Peter Carlyon, Transition Farm

As we are now supplying 80 families every week with produce from our farm, and trying to spread the word to more young people about growing food, it seems like a good time to write about what our CSA farm is all about – and what it is not.

There are many variations on the models of CSA and numerous explanations of what CSA means… The USDA sums it up surprisingly well:

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Posted by & filed under Building, Waste Systems & Recycling.

Finished bottles. Remember, one’s trash is another’s treasure!

Last year I worked on making cob walls for a chicken coop, after attending a natural building course over a weekend which taught me about bahareque, the Central American equivalent of cob, if you will, which is adapted for tropical climates and for heavily seismic areas. The teacher, Eduardo Valverde, who is a Costa Rican green architect well versed in natural, indigenous and mud-based construction techniques, combines ancestral knowledge and skills with the reality of our polluted world. He introduced the class to the idea of plastic bottles stuffed with trash such as candy wrappers, plastic bags, etc. He called them ‘eco-bricks,’ and explained that they are often used in green construction, either by themselves or in combination with mud and cob.

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Posted by & filed under GMOs.

Hawaii’s Big Island bans GMO testing and cultivation while other counties step up their campaigns to regulate GM testing and farming, but agritech giants are already gearing up for a fight.

by Dr Eva Sirinathsinghji

The mayor of Hawaii County Billy Kenoi has signed Bill 113 into law, banning agritech companies and farmers from testing or growing genetically modified (GM) crops; except for GM papayas, which are already widely grown.

Hawaii is a huge testing ground for agritech corporations including Monsanto, Dow AgriSciences, Syngenta and Pioneer, though none has yet established itself in Big Island. This new bill will ensure it remains so into the future.

“Our community has a deep connection and respect for our land, and we all understand we must protect our island and preserve our precious natural resources," Kenoi wrote to council members [1]. “We are determined to do what is right for the land because this place is unlike any other in the world.” The bill aims to encourage local farming and ranching industries as opposed to chemical agricultural methods promoted by the agritech giants.

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Posted by & filed under Seeds.

Tomorrow, the 11th of February, 2014, Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) will meet to discuss and re-vote on the passing of a proposed new EU regulation which, if made into law, will enforce massive restrictions on the way that seeds can be sold, swapped, or even simply saved (1) (2) (3). The potential consequences of this would affect the biodiversity of the whole world.

The new law, known as the Plant Reproductive Materials Regulation, was first proposed in April last year, when it consisted of 145 articles which together made up the new regulation “On the production and making available on the market of plant reproductive material” (4). Put simply, the regulation will make it mandatory for all member states to enforce as law the restriction of sale and use of any seeds which have not been registered with and approved by the European Union (EU).

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Posted by & filed under Demonstration Sites, Food Forests, Food Plants - Perennial, Fungi, Plant Systems, Trees.

Top left: Geoff Lawton inspects a towering Hardy Kiwi Fruit vine snaking across
a number of trees. Right: Some of the fruit growing in the Food Forest system.

Following up on the interest in Geoff Lawton’s earlier cold climate video on Ben Falk’s Permaculture Farm we’ve decided to show more details on another 40 year old private food forest system located in Massachusetts.

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