Posted by & filed under Urban Projects.

Dear friends, we believe we have an interesting urban gardening story to share.

We are Sandra and Drazen from Zagreb, Croatia. Our permaculture interest began two years ago when I (Sandra) fell and broke a leg during a recreational badminton match. The recovery process took three months, so I had enough time to forget all work-related stresses, to read a lot and search the internet.

One morning I found and those were wow moments — a revelation that there is a genuine way to tackle personal and world problems and that all problems can be solved in the garden. I’ve been reading the site ever since.

My husband shared this enthusiasm, so we started contemplating leaving the city and buying our own piece of land to put our new knowledge into practice — as is probably the case with many who start reading, learning and absorbing permaculture knowledge and expand this to aspects of health/disease, community problems, real food revolution, consumerism, peak oil, agriculture, climate change, politics….

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Posted by & filed under Compost, Fungi, Soil Biology, Soil Composition.

by Aaron Jerad

It’s dark. You are surrounded by giant flesh eating amoebas. You can’t move very fast…. Welcome to the world of the bacteria, the smallest but most abundant member of the soil food web. Often feared but essential, whether directly or indirectly, for the survival of almost all other living organisms on earth.

Cover cropping, mulching and composting are three great ways to build soil. In this photo
Lance Swiggert explains his composting system. You can see many stages of the composting
process. In the far back is a rough pile of weeds and dead plants which have been removed
from the garden. In the foreground is a freshly made pile, with layers of old hay, manure and
other organic matter. To the left is a pile that has been turned. Lance is standing by a finished pile
of compost that he has run through a shredder. It is ready to go into the garden.

The Soil

Good soil is alive soil. It’s texture is a balanced mix of clay, silt and sand called loam. It has a high percent of organic material and humus. Not to be mistaken for hummus, the yummy middle eastern chick pea dish, humus is super-food for the soil. It is organic material that can not be broken down any further and can remain stable for many years. Humus is created by composting, the decomposition of organic matter. Good structure, humus, and other organic material allow a soil to soak up and hold moisture, flow oxygen to the roots of plants, and provide a continual and stable supply of nutrients and minerals.

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Posted by & filed under Aid Projects, Commercial Farm Projects, Community Projects, Education Centres, Food Forests, Food Plants - Perennial, Markets & Outlets, Medicinal Plants, Processing & Food Preservation, Trees, Village Development.

Special bicycle for shelling coffee beans

It sounds strange to speak of poverty as an exciting opportunity, but many of the projects in Guatemala make me do just that. I’m particularly impressed with those working with trees. Reforestation is often not so simple as just planting trees. Mass agriculture has created a need for serious reforestation efforts, but that need doesn’t override humanitarian concerns like malnutrition and poverty. A largely agricultural workforce still needs crops to sell, and to eat. So what do you do? This challenge has brought about some really innovative ideas. The Maya Nut Institute, De La Gente, Caoba Farms, and Valhalla are four organizations facing this situation creatively, sustainably, and altruistically, using trees to contribute to many a worthy cause.

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Posted by & filed under Commercial Farm Projects, Markets & Outlets, Urban Projects.

In previous parts of the Start Growing! series, we’ve talked about how to buy a farm debt-free, even without money, and how we should value our time if we’re going to be financially sustainable.

Did you know that’s what SPIN Farming is about?

When I first heard of it I falsely assumed it was something like square-foot gardening with a twist.

Nope. Not even close.

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Posted by & filed under Energy Systems.

Top in investment, installed capacity and generation, and moving away from fossil fuels; in contrast to the USA.

by Dr Mae-Wan Ho

Photo Credit: Greenpeace/Xuan Canxiong

Overtakes US in investment

For the second year, the annual Pew Charitable Trusts report, “Who’s winning the clean energy race?” shows China leads in clean energy investment with $54 billion in 2013, well above total US investment of $ 36.7 bn, with Japan in third place at 28.6 bn, and UK a distant fourth at $12.4 bn [1]. But globally investment has been declining for two straight years. Investment totalled $254 bn, a drop of 11 % from 2012, and 20 % from 2011 when investments peaked at $318 bn.

China installed 14 GW electricity generation capacity from wind and 12 GW from solar in 2013, the US installed less than 1 GW wind power after a tax incentive for wind expired, but installed a record 4.3 GW solar generation capacity.

Another important finding is that for the first time, solar power installations eclipsed wind farm construction globally in 2013. One-third of all solar power on the planet was installed during the year, according to Phyllis Cuttino, director of Pew’s clean energy program.

But much more is afoot in China.

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Posted by & filed under Animal Forage, Bird Life, Breeds, Demonstration Sites, Education Centres, Land, Plant Systems, Soil Rehabilitation, Working Animals.

by James Reid, PRI Tap o’ Noth

You don’t have a slug problem, you have a duck deficiency. — Bill Mollison

It was reading the above quote that made us want to acquire some ducks here at PRI Tap o’ Noth in North East Scotland. The idea of using the natural foraging instinct of the duck to rid our kitchen garden of slugs and snails, by encouraging them to browse through our garden systems, was very appealing.

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Posted by & filed under Courses/Workshops.

Geoff Lawton above Zaytuna Farm
All photographs © Craig Mackintosh

General information

The Permaculture Research Institute Zaytuna Farm is now offering practical hands on learning, in the field experience. This Certificate is replacing the 10-week Internship Program.

A total of 24 successful applicants will learn on the job within their chosen section for 4 weeks starting on the 1st Monday of every month (beginning Monday 5 January, 2015).

The Specialised Work Experience Certificate positions and number of people per month are as follows (click the links for more info on each):

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Posted by & filed under Commercial Farm Projects, Global Warming/Climate Change, Soil Conservation, Soil Rehabilitation, Structure.

“Mechanized labour” in the form of earthmoving equipment, tractors, and the myriad attachments that may be utilized in conjunction with their use provide us with an amazing opportunity to perform a great deal of beneficial work. They help in rapidly establishing efforts to reverse land degradation and desertification on a grand scale. It’s an immense job requiring considerable work input. Given the urgent importance of undertaking this activity, finding the right tools becomes hugely critical.

Many of us who spend lots of time thinking about this topic are always trying to identify methods, techniques, and strategies to advance the earth repair/ecosystem restoration/regenerative design agenda as broadly and effectively as possible. There were a couple of ideas I wanted to quickly mention here which have piqued my interest and may prove to be useful to others working in a similar vein.

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