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Melliodora tours

_MG_2051Melliodora opens its doors to the public from September to May each year.

We have decided to integrate our tours into a whole day outing. To understand Melliodora you have to understand the whole system, how all components relate to each other. During the morning, the emphasis is more on the house. Zone zero, the epicentre of life. After the lunch break, exploration of zone 1 and into the outer zones resumes. You will see how those zones integrate, interact and create the whole. In a very permaculture way.

Guided by the co-founder of the permaculture concept, David Holmgren and his partner Su Dennett, the Melliodora house and garden tour you will enable you a great insight into the Melliodora way of life. Su will prepare morning and afternoon tea – scrumptious, wholesome and local.

The tour begins at 10 am, breaks for lunch between 12.30 and 2pm, and continues at 2pm. In the morning, the emphasis is more on zone zero, the house, while in the afternoon the tour will take you into and out to the garden farm. The day concludes at 4.30pm. 

D.HolmgrenPortrait-12Experience permaculture life at Melliodora. A whole day experience.

The tour fee includes the eBook CD, Melliodora.

Demo available here (7.7MB PDF)

The eBook CD includes all the original book text Melliodora: Ten Years of Sustainable Living (1985-1995), along with high resolution zoomable graphics and full colour high resolution versions of the photos as well as linkable new photos of key views showing the changes and growth over the following decade (1995-2005).

This eBook is an excellent resource to remind you of the day at Melliodora, and for further information.

Book now at Events.

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Global Chorus

Global Chorus is an interesting hybrid of book and daily reader, on the environmental theme. The book contains the responses from 365 eminent concerned people across the globe to this question:

Do you think that humanity can find a way past the current global environmental and social crises? Will we be able to create the conditions necessary for our own survival as well as that of other species on the planet? What would these conditions look like? In summary, then, and in the plainest of terms, do we have hope, and can we do it?

global-chorus-coverThe contributors come from all walks of life, not just the usual suspects; environmental, religious, social, political, business leaders and activists, professors and researchers, but also farmers, chefs, carpenters, factory workers, architects, artists, athletes, and musicians.

Among some of the more widely-known choir members are Gary Snyder, Rob Hopkins, David Suzuki, Satish Kumar, Paul Hawken, Jane Goodall, Stephen Hawking, Edward O. Wilson,  Helena Noberg-Hodge, Jamie Oliver, Maya Angelou, Les Stroud, Bruce Cockburn, Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, Mikhail Gorbachev, Justin Trudeau, Elizabeth May, Temple Grandin, Farley Mowat, John Ralston Saul, and the Dalai Lama.

As a Canadian publication, to raise funds for The Jane Goodall Institute, The David Suzuki Foundation and The Canadian Red Cross, perhaps, it seems people from Australia or NZ are under represented, with the noticable exception of the pair who conceived permaculture some four decades earlier, David Holmgren and Bill Mollison.

It is set out as a daily reader, filled with words of wisdom and food for daily thought. We have no idea though how the specific date is assigned to the contributor, Rob Hopkins (Feb 13) and Mollison (Feb 17), though David Holmgren (Sept 23) likes to note at the equinox how people all around the world are joined by the experience of equal daylight and night.

Compiled for your reading as a set of 365 pieces, Global Chorus presents to you a different person’s point of view for each day of your year.

More about Global Chorus.

Here is Holmgren’s contribution (Sep 23).

Organised international responses (between nation states) to the current global environmental and social crises are unlikely to be effective or in time, and are more likely to worsen the crises because they will all be designed to maintain growth of the corporation dominated global economy and protect the power of nation states.

Despite the pain and suffering from the ongoing, and likely permanent, contraction of many economies, the explosion of informal household and community economies have the potential to ameliorate the worst impacts of the crises by rebuilding lost local resilience.

I believe the diversity of integrated design strategies and techniques associated with concepts such as permaculture will be most effective at building household and community economies as the global economy unravels. The diversity of these strategies and techniques promises that at least some will provide pathways for longer term survival of humanity while the adverse impacts of some strategies will tend to be more local and limited allowing natural systems (especially at the global scale) to stabilise.

Because the future will be more local than global, the critical path is the ongoing development and refinement of effective local designs, while the internet and other aspects of the failing global systems still have huge potential to allow the viral spread of the most effective and widely applicable designs.

Systems ecology and indigenous wisdom both suggest that in a world of limited resources, the ethics of “care of the earth”, “care of people” and “fair share” will prove more advantageous to local survival than those based on greed and fear, that have been so powerful during a century of unprecedented abundance. To put it crudely, hungry dogs hunt cooperatively and share the results, but given an abundance of food, they fight each other for the spoils.

I have great hope that the diverse local cultures that emerge from the ruins of industrial modernity will be based on these ethics and informed by design principles found in nature. The uncertainty is how much more pain and despoiling are yet to unfold before fear and greed prove maladapted to a world of limits.

 

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Permaction in the brown tech future (video)

Earlier this year, permaculture activists from Australia and New Zealand converged to a tiny town in Tasmania for the 12th get together. There, as one of the key note speakers, and a co-founder of the concept nearly four decades ago in Tasmania, David Holmgren delivered this speech. We posted the text of the speech earlier and now you can watch him on the video (thanks to Adam Hogg for creating and Eric Smith for posting it).

Permaculture activism in the brown tech future (presented at Penguin, March 2015)

There are other videos from the APC12 on the official website including Stuart Hill (emeritus professor and foundation chair of Social Ecology at University of Western Sydney) discussing permaculture’s achievements and challenges.

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Holmgren visits Mullumbimby

In June David  and Su Dennett will visit northern NSW at the invitation of local permaculture enthusiasts. Three days of action packed programs are presented and coordinated by Free Farm, set up and maintained by Cyrano and Bianca. Cyrano is an accomplished permaculture educator and designer, and Bianca a radical homemaker, and we know this, because they lived at Melliodora for a time.

March 2006 Cyrano with giant raddishCyrano says “as David Holmgren uses his carbon footprint selectively these days, we are very fortunate to have him visiting us in Mullumbimby for three unique events”.

After Bianca and Cyrano left Melliodora, they set up Free Farm on Left bank Road out of Mullumbimby applying permaculture and regenerative agriculture principles in a way that returns health to the land while providing the community with organic produce and educational programs . David and Su’s visit there is a part of Free Farm’s ongoing commitment to the development of a sustainable local community. If you are living in Byron or the Northern Rivers regions or thereabouts, do join David and Su on the second weekend of June.

The first two days are about retrofitting suburbia. David will bring his popular Aussie Street talk,  and reveal what the great Aussie dreams are made of, how vulnerable they are, and ideas for retrofitting that we can apply . The public talk will be on Friday June 12 at the Mullumbimby Civic Hall from 7-10pm. More details and bookings, see Events pages.

Aussie Street: Transforming the Australian dream – Public Talk

Mullumbimby Civic Hall, Friday June 12, 7-10pm

Continuing on the subject of retrofitting the ‘burbs, on the following day, David and Su will be conducting a hands-on workshop, to help find out what can be done in Mullumbimby (and wider region) in particular.

Retrofitting Mullumbimby – Workshop

Mullumbimby Community Gardens, Saturday June 13, 9am-1pm

(Following the workshop, there will be a free gathering “Sustain Mullum” to celebrate the first anniversary of the Transition Mullumbimby. This will be a great place for locals, wanting to create a sustainable future, to connect, collect ideas and direct their energies towards collaborative projects for the Byron Shire community.)

And then on Sunday, David will be hosting an open consultancy, a unique opportunity for participants to gather a deeper understanding of design principles and learn from his wealth of knowledge.

Principles in action – Open Consultancy at Free Farm, Sunday, June 14, 1-5pm

Both David and Su are looking forward to seeing all the good people in the area.

DAVID HOLMGREN (5)

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Northern sojourn (by rail)

David Holmgren will make one last sojourn north in June before he takes a well deserved sabatical from teaching courses and public lectures, taking part in panel discussions and conducting workshops. He will spend the coming seasons finishing several of his writing projects.

coverAlong with Su Dennett, he will take part in the Planting weekend in Woodford in QLD. But before getting there, they will be stopping over briefly in Sydney, and he will be teaching a two day Advanced Permaculture Principles Course in Sydney.

After the Planting, they will be travelling on to Mullumbimby in northern NSW for three days of a public talk and workshops before heading home. The details of all these engagements are listed in the Events.

nsw_trainlink-XPT

Photo courtesy of Sydney for everyone, http://sydneyforeveryone.com.au/city/sydney/railway-journeys/brisbane-sydney-xpt/

A note on the often forgotten yet vitally important side. How will they get around? You won’t catch them  in the queue at airport check-ins for sure. You won’t see them operating the bowser at the servos. Could that be possible? It seems so. Long time advocates of less flights and drivings the better, they will be travelling by rail.  Interstate trips in Australia without flying or driving?  Too slow? Remember permie principle number nine? They will no doubt enjoy (ie observe and analyse) the scenes outside the window during the days up and down the east coast. They will be spending a few nights in style, on the sleeper trains as well.

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The Guardian piece

While the only poet named among Australia’s 100 Living National Treasures is Les Murray, Venie Holmgren is a splendid candidate to add to the list. At 92, the writer and poet can look back on a life of activism, adventure and enterprise. And that life is far from over as she works on what she sees as a neglected history: the story of the anti-Vietnam war movement in her native Western Australia.

So writes Kevin Childs for the Guardian.

A very interesting profile of our resident perma poet,  Venie the gracious grandma of permaculture lives happily in the house her son and Su designed, built and maintains.

Her lates collection, the Tea house poems are available here, or at selected bookshops including Bookbarn and the Paradise in Daylesford.

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Permaculture activism in the Brown Tech Future

Keynote Address to 12th Australasian Permaculture Convergence

Penguin Tasmania  March 2015

Outline

Over the last 8 years David Holmgren’s Future Scenarios work has provided a framework through which permaculture, transition and kindred activists have better understood, navigated and even taken advantage of the chaotic changes unfolding in our world driven by peaking resources, environmental tipping points, economic contraction and geopolitical instability.

His more recent (2013) essay Crash On Demand: Welcome to the Brown Tech Future triggered a global debate in peak oil blogosphere and more locally (eg Great Debate at the Melbourne Sustainable Living Festival) about local adaption vs grand global plans.

In this keynote David Holmgren builds on the lessons of 40 years of permaculture and kindred activism to articulate how the bottom up permaculture strategies that focus at the personal, household, enterprise and community level can be effective where mass movements to demand top down change are repeatedly derailed or simply reinvent the problems in new forms ( the solution becomes the problem).

At a time when environmental activists are feeling increasingly embattled and desperate, the opportunities for permaculture have never been greater. Are we ready to use whatever agency remains at the personal, household and community level to turn the problems into solutions?

 

PDF of text

Video (thanks to Adam Hogg for creating and Eric Smith for posting it)

 

Permaculture design system and activism

Permaculture is a design system for sustainable land use and living.

It articulates and applies the design principles of nature in new ways appropriate to the energy descent era of industrial civilisation. These design principles are embedded in an ethical framework derived from the commonalities of indigenous and traditional cultures of place.

Permaculture activism uses global understanding to inform local action at the personal, household and community scale to create models capable of viral proliferation.

Permies seeks to create the world we do want by direct constructive action rather than stopping the world we don’t want by restrictive action. Permaculture’s popularity especially with environmentally aware youth over three generations can be partly attributed to a “good cop/bad cop” synergy with more conventional oppositional activism. Thus those who have done their time in direct action in the forest (or shale gas blockades) are often supported by those who spend their positive energy on the permablitz front line.

Similarly for more mature people, being the change we want to see in the world is far more empowering, than using all our capacity and credentials to push for policy change from the top down.

Pushback from conventional activism

While the support for permaculture and positive environmentalism in general has grown stronger in recent years, there is also a pushback from those committed to the top down and oppositional strategies. The argument is that composting your garden may be good for you but it does little to help bring about the necessary structural changes in society that, it is argued, can only come through big processes such as

  1. corporate capitalism making big bucks doing good,
  2. top down policy reforms driven fearless political leaders or
  3. mass movements threatening revolution to force change at the top.

Those committed to these pathways argue theirs is the best. Often the pathway of changing the world by changing ourselves is ignored or denigrated as self obsessed navel gazing.

In the permaculture movement the value of this DIY approach is taken for granted but permies often have difficulty in articulating to others why this approach is at least as important as the other three in shaping a more positive future for ourselves, humanity and nature.

I want to go one step further to articulate why the DIY and DIO (doing it ourselves) approaches of permaculture are the most efficient, resilient and empowering ways to focus our own limited power in the world.

Activism that is good for our bodies and our minds is fun and empowering, and makes us more self reliant, and resilient in the face of uncertain futures, is a much easier sell than activism that involves self sacrifice for some larger collective good. In this sense permaculture shares some common ground with green corporate capitalism’s focus on rewards as a motivation even if the rewards are primarily non monetary.

If our experiments in DIY self-reliance are successful, others without as much innovator tenacity can copy what we do without having to make so many mistakes. The issue of whether our solutions are scalable beyond the non monetary household and community economies to the monetary economy, let alone corporate capitalism is less important than whether our solution can replicate virally to achieve scale in numbers

Big solutions to big problems often recreate the problem in a new form. Small scale solutions have the advantage of being site and situation specific and being more amenable to incremental organic adaptation with less risk that failures causes higher order systemic failures. For example local raw milk Community Supported Agriculture system have some real (very low) risk of causing illness but large scale corporate supply systems of industrial milk have created problems where large numbers of people spread across countries become sick before corrective responses can be enacted.

In addition there is strong evidence many successful small business get started in the household and community economies of gift, exchange and reciprocity before growing into the monetary economy. In the future, two processes suggest this might be the main mechanism by which we grow a new monetary economy. Credit crunches from deflationary economics eliminate bank finance for small business so the bootstraps DIY approach is the only option. Secondly the capacity of governments to enforce regulatory barriers that currently stymie home producers going commercial, will be unsustainable.

What we do in our own households, with our family and informal community networks is simple and small scale so that it largely can occur

  1. without the permission of the banks who -through their lending – determine what does and what does not happen in the credit driven monetary economy,
  2. and without the knowledge of the corporate competitors who stand to lose market share,
  3. and mostly under the radar of the government regulators whose function is to secure the market for bank financed corporate investment.

The potential for mass adoption is the test that most political activists want to see before they will accept any value from DIY approaches. Can we persuade everyone to grow their own vegetables? What if everyone had a wood stove? Is there enough land in the city to grow all the food? How will it help us close down a brown coal power station?

Mainstream political action focuses on persuading the majority because the majority is always the biggest game in town. This focus on majorities is strategically useless for smaller order players like environmental and social activists. Apart from the need to counter the massive propaganda might of the strongest lobby groups, it ignores an important trend in affluent, notionally democratic nations at least since the thatcherite/reganite revolution of the early 1980’s . A simple or even large majority is not enough to persuade elite power structures to roll over and implement policies that directly threaten their own power (eg Iraq war 2003).

On the other hand the DIY approach has some important advantages as a political change pathway. Firstly the DIY approach that reflects permaculture ethics and design principles behaves as a systemic strike of labour, skill and capital against the debt financing by banks, globalized production controlled by corporations and central government taxation dependent on constantly rising GDP. I have argued in Crash On Demand, that a 50% reduction in consumption, work and investment by 10% of the global middle class could be enough to severely undermine the power of these global systems (that are already teetering due to the massive global unpayable debt burdens)

Whatever the effects on centralized systems, the experience of building the parallel systems from the bottom up will expose the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats through a rapid learning cycle. In the process we can better articulate a larger scale public policy agenda that would allow the next level of adoption and adaption as well as clarifying the design characteristics necessary for any truly useful larger scale government or corporate driven solutions.

The response of the centralized power structures to such a systemic strike might be to introduce draconic regulations and politically demonise those pursuing DIY enlightened self interest. We should expect more of this but there are limits to how effective such responses might be. Firstly the diffuse, even invisible nature of many of these personal and household strategies makes them inherently difficult to control. Recent attempts to control raw milk in Victoria are likely to be as ineffective as drug prohibition – every man and his dog now admits has failed despite massive resources and efforts on the part of the state. Secondly demonizing raw milk consumers and gardeners is somewhat harder than doing the same to so-called radical Islamists.

The alternative more hopeful response of centralized power might be to engage in political discourse to encourage the striking minority to come back into the fold. “We need your consumption and your creativity, what would you like to be paid to be part of the Team (Australia)” Being relatively autonomous gives us much more political leverage than being part of a mass movement of completely dependent consumers and indebted workers.

In the Brown Tech future that I believe we are increasingly locked into – nationally and globally – I think there will still be some opportunities for constructive dialogue with those trying to bring about top down change either with/through government or corporations; but we should expect that some of these opportunities will almost inevitably turn the solution back into the problem. In the face of unfolding environmental, geological, economic and geopolitical crises, the ability to ‘speak truth to power’ in defense of dispossessed people and voiceless nature will become more symbolic that effective in achieving resilience let alone justice.

On the other hand, the urgency in building the parallel systems on the conceptual and geographic fringes (edges and margins principle) will grow and the interest from those wanting to participate with their hands and hearts will increase to a flood. The ability to replicate workable alternatives to the strictures of contracting but monopolistic centralized systems will be a challenge for permaculture activists.

At the moment, turning the tide of the majority to our way would be more of a destructive tsunami than a surfable wave. If we can prove to ourselves that we can enjoy life living more healthy and resilient lives, less dependent on centralized systems while massively reducing our ecological footprint in the process, then we provide a pattern than others can copy. At the same time we contribute the diversity of solutions that can model whatever utility and hope remains for system-wide reform and redesign. And if that fails at least we lived the solution and have a multiplicity of lifeboats that give the best chance of saving the useful bits and even the essence of wisdom from a failing civilization for the emergence of the next.

Zooming back from the over-the-horizon big picture to the here and now, I would like to suggest ways in which we can make the DIY and DIO strategies achieve their great potential for positive change.

DIY suggests a learning process with less than perfect results, but if we want others to copy us then the work of reviewing, debugging and refining our solutions is essential. The fact that permaculture has generated a lot of half baked outcomes by people who are “jacks of all trades but masters of none”, is to some extent an inevitable outcome of the experimental and generalist integrated nature of permaculture solutions. However to establish any credibility – let alone have others copy us – requires food gardens that are abundant, compost toilets that smell sweet and lifestyles that are attractive to at least a motivated minority. We don’t need to dumb permaculture down for the masses but it does need to work at least on the terms of those who are interested.

We need to admit and correct our mistakes, and avoid the error of suggesting a given permaculture technique, species or even strategy is applicable everywhere. (It is the principles and ethics that are universal)

Most of all in celebrating our being jacks and jills of all trades, we should aim – at least in maturity – to also become masters and mistresses of one. One trade that can allow us to be truly useful members of relocalising communities where many may not recognize permaculture understandings – let alone p c ideology – as having any value. Energy descent futures, especially of the Brown Tech variation will not necessarily see permaculture as widely appreciated.

While this first issue [specify the issue]is about the reality and perception of effective solutions that have the power to spread, the second is about the degree to which apparently practical and effective permaculture designs are leading to substantial decoupling from the globalized economies that are now degrading humanity’s future.

In the same way that it is not clear that renewable technologies can proliferate without abundant fossil fuels and debt financing, it is not clear that when we live our permaculture lifestyle we are not just participating in global degradation through more indirect pathways.

I believe the holistic nature of permaculture can allow us to progressively integrate our personal, household, enterprise and communal systems. These systems can more and more support and stimulate, first the non monetary economies, and secondly businesses controlled by natural persons, as we progressively disengage from support for and dependency on businesses run by non natural persons (corporations) that are structurally immune to ethical influence. How to do this with one arm tied behind our back and hopping on one leg is a balancing act to say the least. (eg coming to Tassie on the Ferry)

We need to demonstrate that the DIY and DIO strategies of permaculture are workable, enjoyable and empowering but most of all that they can spread, if not like wildfire, then like a cool burn (or a compost culture) that regenerates the understory of our brittle and flammable communities.

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Green Lifestyle interview (and Award reflections)

Back in October David Holmgren was inducted into the Green Lifestyle Hall of Fame.

A follow-up an interview with Katrina Lezaic published in Green Lifestyle Magazine focused on the links between the origins of permaculture and the energy crises of the 1970s.

“The origin point for the first big wave of environmentalism was really the limits to growth report from the Club of Rome in 1972, which is the beginnings of the modern concept of sustainability’, even though that term didn’t appear until much later,” Mr Holmgren told Green Lifestyle. “And of course a year after that report came out there was the first oil shock, followed by another in ’79 to bracket that initial wave.”

The publishing of Permaculture One catapulted the practice into popular culture, resulting in a series of design courses facilitated by Bill Mollison in the early ’80s.

Throughout that time there was huge growth in all aspects of environmentalism, including an increase in owner/builders, intentional communities, and organic agriculture.

“Permaculture was a bringing together of all these different aspects and integrating them,” Mr Holmgren says. “It also introduced a few new or novel aspects, by highlighting design as the most important practice and ecological models for redesigning agriculture and society.”

The article conclude with the following.

David Holmgren was initiated into the Green Lifestyle Hall of Fame. As a key figure in the environmental movement, he is inspirational in providing ways to restructure our thinking so we are no longer depending on dwindling resources but instead create resilience and political strength in our own lives.

We have just found David’s own reflections on the award that never made it onto the website. The series of articles by an Australian environmental activist Kari McGregor he had just read helped him contextualise his own reactions to the award. Ironically Kari’s blog is called the Overthinker!

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Fair, real and local food

About one hundred people gathered on the steps of the Victorian parliament house on 19 Feb 2015 to rally for fair, real and local food. Organised by Regrarians, the rally attendants heard from Lisa Heenan (Regrarians), Costa Georgiadis (Gardening Australia), Cyndi O’Meara (Changing Habits), Joel Salatin (Polyface Farms), Tammi Jonas (Jonai Farms), Reg Matthews (Miranda Dale dairy), Lorraine Pratley (Australian Raw Milk Movement) as well as David Holmgren and Su Dennett from Melliodora.

For those people who  missed the great day of action in Melbourne, here’s a video recording of the whole rally.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XkLjQWukrmo&w=560&h=315]

David Holmgren edit

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HyBPTrr82Jo&w=560&h=315]

Su Dennett edit

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9I2vWLl5By0&w=560&h=315]

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Visiting Melliodora

We have many visitors at Melliodora. Friends and neighbours drop in, or pick up veggie boxes and bulk food through Hepburn Relocalisation Network. We have people coming here to take part in our monthly garden and house tours. More than 100 people have come through the gate for both tours this season. They go home inspired and buzzing at the end of the tour (There are still three tours dates to visit Melliodora this season: March 1, April 5 and May 3 and still places available, but please make your bookings early here as last year, we saw a surge of interest towards the end of the season, and regrettably had to turn many people away).

We also have visitors who stay here longer, eat, work, sleep, and experience a permaculture life. They are voluntary helpers, we call them interns. They come from all corners of the world with different skills and life experiences, but they have one thing in common; they are all keen learners. They come to experience what permaculture living is like at a well established mature permaculture site.

Alister Tuffnell recently came and stayed with us for three weeks and has sent us this piece reflecting his time here. With Alister’s kind permission, here’s “Lessons from Melliodora”.

For quite a while I have thought I would like to make a living from farming. After constantly hearing my dreams of farming, my wife Christine who has a real understanding of the hard realities of farming suggested I go to a farm to get real experience (reality) before I jump in to something I know very little about. And she suggested I apply to do an internship with the co-founder of Permaculture, David Holmgren. So I applied at Melliodora, in Hepburn Springs.

When I got accepted to do a three week internship I read a book called Fields of Farmers by Joel Salatin, which is about mentoring and interning. I attempted to heed his advice for the intern: from first accepting everything and forgetting judgment up front, to not being a prima donna about the jobs that need to be done.

Chances are there is more to any procedure than you know. Devote yourself to accepting the protocols and techniques of the master you’re with. Every task is a valuable component of the entire process. Jump in, it’s all about immersion. (Salatin)

Salatin states that he has learned something from every farm he has visited. Sometimes it‘s simply a slick new gate latch. He goes on to explain that interns must not be casual observers; “When you’re out working with a mentor get up where you can see. What really is the technique? How does he hold the hoe? Foot placement? Body placement? Eyes in relation to hands? Every single thing, every single thing has a host of nuances”.

I have just completed the internship. Melliodora is a 1 hectare garden farm and sustainable home which is a model of small scale intensive permaculture. David Holmgren and Su Dennett designed and built the sustainable home and farm (with many helping hands) and they maintain mixed food gardens, orchards, dams and livestock (chooks, geese and goats), as well as do ecosynthesis (use of introduced species to fill niches in a disrupted environment, with the aim of increasing the speed of ecological restoration) creek revegetation.

David and Su openly shared their knowledge and experiences with me and the other interns. To be able to spend three weeks working at one of the best examples of permaculture, under the guidance of such experienced mentors, was a real privilege. I learned by observing David and Su and by doing the daily garden farm chores. Perhaps I learned most through osmosis, just being there.

I had many stimulating chats with David and Su. There was much time for dialogue and explanations about why things are done in such ways at the garden farm. On one occasion in the garden I asked David about his method of gardening and he explained the importance of intuition and listening to his emotions. For example on this summer day it was cooler and it had been raining earlier which provided extra moisture in the soil. David described how this ‘autumn-like’ weather made him feel like planting, and so that is what he did today: sowed carrots, daikons and butter lettuce.

David and Karl sowing carrots, daikons and saladsDavid and Karl sowing carrots, daikons and salads

Melliodora has been designed to mimic the patterns and relationships in nature. After 30 years it continues to work productively and sustainably due to its systems management. Many applications such as chooks and orchards have been adopted (rather than single use farming) which require interconnected knowledge. Human physical labour rather than complex machines are used to organise and maintain the permaculture garden farm.

Human labour with simple machines is mostly usedHuman labour with simple machines is mostly used

The amount of embedded knowledge that David and Su have can be overwhelming at times. To try to cram into three weeks a lifetime’s knowledge and experience couldn’t be done on my notepad which I kept with me at all times. However through the stories I was told and the context of doing , the internship became a means of developing habits –not just procedural how-to’s but the way I think and behave. The effectiveness of the internship was that it put me, the student, next to masters who have earned their status through time and trial.

My confidence grew as David explained some of the mistakes and changes in thinking they had made in their thirty years at Melliodora. And what he has learned from his mistakes and observations. For example David described to me, while we were picking hazelnuts, how he had originally placed too much lime in the soil for hazelnut trees. Also he described how his original thinking at Melliodora had a large focus on fruit trees but now his focus has increased on nut producing trees.

Some highlights of the three weeks included walking around the property in the rain with David observing and maintaining water flows. This was very exciting and educational for me as we walked around in our raincoats seeing water fall from the sky and flow along the contours of the land. David has designed the landscape of Melliodora to catch and store water from a large catchment of 40 hectares. On this day I observed the two dams (0.8 Megalitre and 0.3 Megalitre capacity) fill up with water to capacity – much needed to maintain a healthy intensive vegetable garden and orchard at this time of year.

David in the rain observing a leaky weirDavid in the rain observing a leaky weir in situ

 

Another highlight was working in the garden with David and two other interns from France, Karl and Aline. Being in the garden for several hours each day allows one to observe and become attuned to changes and progressions in plants and animals.

 

The meals together were great. The food was brilliant, healthy and delicious. There is something about eating, preparing and cooking your own food immediately from your garden and animals that cannot be matched.

Working with David and Su, their immediate family and other interns, and interacting with the local community allowed me access to an intended vocation without the full responsibilities of running a business. At Melliodora, I got to test the waters of permaculture garden farming and see if it is something I want to seriously pursue.

Alistair Tuffnell can be contacted via atuffnell@gmail.com.

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