Author Archive | David Holmgren

Vale Rod May

One of Australia’s ecological farming pioneers, and a close friend, passed away today. Rod May aged 63 died in intensive care after a road accident between Ballarat and his family farm at Blampied 5 days previously. Rod was a 4th generation farmer on 200 acres at the foot of Kangaroo Hills in the prime red cropping country of central Victoria. In the late 1970’s Rod returned to the farm motivated by interest in self reliance, organics and tree crops and “fell back into farming” as something to do in between starting the Central Victorian Tree Planting Co-op and getting elected to the very conservative Creswick Council.

Photo: Josie Alexandra

The Landcare movement emerged simultaneously in several regions across Australia in the late 70’s and early 80’s. One of those places was central Victoria and Rod May played a leading roll in it. In 1983 when Project Branchout received federal funding to employ people to plant trees on demonstration sites right across the Campaspe, Loddon and Avoca catchments in response to the threat of salinity, the committee fell on their feet in employing Rod and his crew from the CVTPC to manage the huge program. Rod had the same holistic vision of the committee, the ability to take risks, roll with the punches and engage with conservative farmers, and with some of the unemployed workers putting the trees in the ground. Most importantly he had dirt under his nails as both a farmer and tree planter.

Rod May, 1992. Photo: David Holmgren

Rod was not part of the first generation of organic farmers but he was one of the generation that integrated the new ecological thinking of the 1970’s including permaculture, and connected it to the emerging markets for organic produce that lead to organic certification in the late 80’s. As founding president of the National Association for Sustainable Agriculture Australia (in 1986) Rod May was at the forefront of driving the importance of links between ecological science, organics and the emerging sustainable development concept. At the same time he was converting his part of the family farm to organics, implementing large-scale plantings of shelter, fodder, timber, fruit and nut , still working for Project Branchout in their Bicentennial revegetation of the Captains Creek Catchment that included the family farm. As plantation designer I worked closely with Rod at that time and remember when he and I headed up the steep slopes of Kangaroo Hills overlooking the May family farm to get some of the shelterbelts in the ground. I had my two-year-old son Oliver to help us and that began a thirty-year bond between Oliver and Rod.

As organics grew in the 1990’s, Rod spent an increasing amount of time in meetings around the country and the world making the global linkages through the International Federation of Organic Farming Movements and doing some of the first organic certifications for farmers ranging from cranky older generation organic pioneers to coffee growers in East Timor and lake bed croppers in the semi arid zone. His keen observation skills, memory for facts, figures and protocols, his slow talking easy going manner and his enjoying a beer or, in the right circles, a joint allowed him to tackle novel situations and always learn something new.

Rod at home on the family farm, Blampied. Photo: David Holmgren

I remember when the diverse and disparate organic and biodynamic groups where having to work together with the Australian government to establish protocols for organic export trade. Alex Podolinsky, head of Demeter Biodynamics would not speak to any of the NASAA people except Rod “because he was the only real farmer”. I arrived early one day at the farm to have Rod introduce me to Alex Podolinsky, who immediately launched into an explanation of what was wrong with permaculture. After Alex left I asked what the visit was about. Rod said he thought it was an “informal biodynamic inspection.”

This understated diplomacy allowed Rod to work with the idealists and the pragmatists of the organic movement, even if his sometimes slap dash approach to getting things done in drafting a document or consigning pallets of veggies left his partners frustrated and sometimes having to pick up the pieces. Life at home with Viv and their daughters Stephanie and Carla, as well as his brothers Greg, Doug and their families on the family farm was not always smooth but as an outside observer, one of the ways in which Rod contributed to harmony was a tolerance of whatever others dished up for him. He and Viv lived fairly independent lives but their wide social circle and love of a party kept them going between their respective passions for organic farming and teaching.

I can remember Su phoning Rod’s father Maurice to find out where Rod was and the exasperated answer; somewhere in America and I don’t know when he’s back. But I also remember marvelling at Rod getting back from an trans pacific flight then the same afternoon jumping on the tractor to plough up the new veggie cropping paddock before the rains came. During those years of globe trotting Maurice provided a back stop for Rod and supported the organic methods which were adopted by brothers Greg and Doug. Like his father, Rod was a big bloke and worked like few of the baby boom generation could. Within the organic/green movement intellectuals he was as sharp as the best of us but in the spud paddock, no one I know could work day in day out like Rod. I remember when I had a chronicly bad back he told me in all seriousness that picking spuds was great for fixing a bad back. In his later years his knees began to give him trouble after all those years working across the furrows and mounds of several acres of irrigated vegetable he cranked out year after year.

Rod with PDC students. Photo: Ian Lillington

In the early 1990s we began taking our residential Permaculture Design Course participants to his farm to get a taste, literally, of a real organic farm that best illustrated permaculture principles supplying local and central markets with basic food. Rod’s seamless grasp of everything from soil ecology, tree crop potentials, organic marketing and mechanics and gadgets involved in farming, was immense. We would go out and harvest the veg that didn’t meet commercial standards and take it back to the farmhouse where Su would organise the roast lunch with Maurice helping cook the farm killed mutton.

While we promoted Captains Creek as a good example of permaculture, Rod never did. In a piece I wrote in the early 1990’s I said many ecological pioneers who chose not to describe their work as permaculture did so for one of three reasons; because of the bad examples they had seen called permaculture, because they didn’t want to alienate more conservative audiences or because they didn’t think what they were doing met the high ecological standards they associated with the permaculture concept. In Rod’s case I believe it was a mix of the three with the last being the most important.

Food Relocalisation in action. Rod delivering CSA veggie boxes to Su at the Hepburn Relocalisation Network food co-op. Photo: David Holmgren

During the 1990’s I watched the rewards and strictures of supplying central markets pushing Rod towards being a specialist broccoli producer supplying Melbourne, Adelaide, Sydney and even Brisbane markets in mid to late summer when it was difficult for producers in warmer districts to do so. Rod was surprised at his own success. He thought that once the market for organics became established, the big specialist vegetable growers would take over and that he would head the other way diversifying to supply local markets using methods he had seen working in Europe, Japan and the US including farmer’s markets and community supported agriculture.

Rod’s involvement in the international organic scene continued with his membership of the scientific advisory board, IFOAM and in 2005 in bringing the IFOAM international conference to Adelaide. But over time he started to organise his exit from organics politics and to encourage the next generation onto the board of NASAA including our son Oliver. Rod’s political focus shifted back to local government and in 2006 he was elected to the Hepburn Shire. Su recalls that Rod was rather slack about campaigning, but his charm, laid back style and ability to connect to the average person got him over the line.

Around the same time after some pestering by Su to produce boxes for local customers instead of all being shipped off to central markets, Rod asked her when she wanted to start. The next week Rod delivered 6 cardboard boxes full of mixed unwashed veggies to our place for pick up by the customers that Su had organised.

Over the following couple of seasons Rod turned his whole farming operation around to focus on boxes delivered to Hepburn, Castlemaine, Ballarat and Melbourne. In the same way that centralised markets reward monocultural specialisation, box schemes demand diversity from the farmer. The fact that Rod turned his relatively large production scale around to supply that diversity was testament to his skills as a farmer. Rod’s fields were rough and ready even by organic standards, full of weeds and some produce not making the grade but the productivity from limited and often erratic input of skilled labour was truly amazing.

Rod in 2005 at the IFOAM conference doing an Aussie farmer skit. Photo: David Holmgren

Apart from extra needs for catering for events and courses, we have always grown our own produce without the fuel and gadgets (Rod’s term for farm equipment) that sustained Rod’s farming operation but there were years where in disgust I thought I should give up and just buy from Rod. Whatever the season and the weather Rod just kept on delivering and at the end of the season the weedy fields full of left over veg was good to fatten the sheep after the gleaners had their share. My personal comparison with Rod led me to assert that I am probably a better ecological builder than ecological farmer but I know what the world needs more. We have enough buildings already but we need to eat each day.

On council Rod was a mover and a shaker, using his deep experience with negotiation and decision making, process and protocol to good effect but in a context very different from the parochial years on Creswick council in his youth. He championed a Climate Change and Peak Oil policy for Hepburn Shire, the second in the state and a number of other pioneering initiatives at a time when Hepburn was becoming famous for the first community owned wind farm in Australia.

After Viv died tragically in the Samoan tsunami in 2009 Rod poured himself into local council, and as mayor contributed to the growth of the local food culture as central to the tourist economy of the region. In 2011 he managed to get funding for an Energy Descent Action Plan for Hepburn shire but Rod’s vision and the consultancy that I delivered in response were too radical even for our progressive environmentally aware community.

On the home front Rod began to focus on the future with development of Viv’s Lang Road property and a vision for the farm into the future. After leaving council Rod threw himself into a farm redevelopment plan at the same time as he was active in the Greens, supporting his daughter Steph’s candidacy, and even stood for the Greens in the seat of Ripon.

He did try to engage me in a farm planning process but with my focus on teaching and writing, Rod couldn’t wait and in typical style he whipped up cabins, an autonomous power system, new fencing, a farm processing shed and other infrastructure necessary following the formal division of the farm between the three brothers following Maurice’s death. It was only around this time that I discovered my good mate had originally trained as a diesel mechanic and that his ability with machines was more than rudimentary but like everything else if a vehicle or machine was working, Rod’s energy was focused elsewhere. If machinery failed, like sheep getting into the crops, Rod could just cut his loses and move on.

Rod was also a motorbike rider, what a friend and local doctor called “a temporary citizen”. Just another one of the risks he took along with the weather, the crops, the politics and at times the law. But I know that while Rod had incredible energy he was not manic and not ever what I would call reckless.

When his luck ran out on the way home from Ballarat after getting a tool for current building projects, the wonders of modern intensive care gave the hope of a rebuild and another chance for my old mate Rod to at least pass on his incredible knowledge of the farm and life to the next generation. But that process was already well underway. After decades of working with and teaching volunteers, interns and community members the in and outs of farming, Rod had been working with his daughters on the farm future. Stephanie and her partner Oggy along with his bother Serge have been working to keep Captains Creek organics humming.

Hopefully the farm customers and especially all of us who knew Rod can support the May family to build on the vision and the legacy after the great man had to cut his loses and move on

To Rod’s family, daughters, Steph + Carla, and his brothers, Greg and Doug, we send our love and deepest condolence.

– David Holmgren, Hepburn, 30 May 2017

You can read the obituary Jason Alexandra and I wrote for Rod in The Age here.

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One of the best permaculture docos

The explosion of docos about sustainability in recent years includes a fair number that focus on permaculture and I have been interviewed in quite a few. The request to preview Inhabit and offer comment was just one of my “responsibilities” as co-originator of the permaculture concept. In the end I got to view Inhabit with 200 other permaculture activists at the 12th Australasian permaculture convergence in Penguin, Tasmania in March 2015. There was a standing ovation after the viewing.

INHABIT - Collage

I was impressed by the articulate explanations of permaculture by a few people I knew, many I had never met and some I had never heard of. The scope and balance of the examples chosen to illustrate the diversity of permaculture is excellent. The film gives me a great sense of the evolution of permaculture in the USA over recent decades.

Of course the art and beauty of this film will make it attractive to audiences used to polished media productions, but it is the substance underlying the beauty and passion that attracts me. The film can’t convey enough about the ideas and projects presented, for me to personally endorse every element in it as representing the best of permaculture, but I can endorse Inhabit as one of the best permaculture docos of the last thirty years.

Here’s the official blurb for the film.

Humanity is more than ever threatened by its own actions; we hear a lot about the need to minimize footprints and to reduce our impact. But what if our footprints were beneficial? What if we could meet human needs while increasing the health and well-being of our planet? This is the premise behind permaculture: a design process based on the replication of patterns found in nature. Inhabit explores the many environmental issues facing us today and examines solutions that are being applied using the ecological design lens of permaculture. Focused mostly on the Northeastern and Midwestern regions of the United States, Inhabit provides an intimate look at permaculture peoples and practices ranging from rural, suburban, and urban landscapes.

INHABIT: A Permaculture Perspective made by Costa Boutsikaris and Emmett Brenna is now available.

INHABIT Banner Thin

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Shades of Green(Lifestyle) Awards Reflection

logo-bigWhile gardening alone in the Spring busy period without the need to plan and direct volunteers, I have had more time for reflection. One of the subjects for reflection was my elevation to the Green Lifestyle Hall of Fame.

By chance I had just read a series of articles by Kari McGregor (part 1, part 2 and part 3) using a framework for thinking about green activism that seemed relevant to this award.

Kari McGregor’s categories of environmentalism Light Green, Bright Green, Deep Green and Dark Green made sense of my musings.

Light Green, is about relatively modest changes in our personal lifestyles that will collectively lead to a more environmentally sane and sustainable society.

Bright Green, is based on a belief that renewable and smart technology will create the next industrial revolution that will allow society to continue the path of progress that is so fundamental to our collective culture. Both these strains of environmentalism remain anthropocentric while Deep and Dark Green environmentalism assert humanity must develop an eco-centric culture to survive.

Deep Green environmentalists focus on protecting nature by direct action and radical political activism while Dark Greens focus on building the ecological successor culture now in the belief that industrial civilization is doomed to run its course and collapse either dramatically or slowly.

In this framework Green Lifestyle Magazine is primarily Light Green with a fair dose of Bright Green. I wondered where to position the previous recipients of the Hall of Fame award. Bob Brown might be more Deep Green while Olivia Newton John’s stellar celebrity and financial success might suggest a blend of Light and Bright Green (even though I know very little of her environmental activism). I fit more squarely in with the Dark Greens. While my Dark Green perspective may seem most removed from Green Lifestyle’s Light Green environmentalism, we share the focus on change the world by changing ourselves while the Bright Green renewable energy and climate policy activists such as Mark Descendorf, and Philip Sutton share the belief in changing the nature of the system with the more radical direct action activists such as Paul Watson (founder of Sea Shepherd) even if the methods used to bring about structural change are very different and that these activists can be placed on either side of the anthropocentric and eco-centric divide.

pip3The point of Kari’s essay was that all four perspectives have their strengths and weaknesses and that we should all do more to acknowledge the value of the perspectives. She suggests that commitment to social justice is a shared if not strongly articulated value behind all four shades of green that could be more strongly recognized and articulated. In this context I thought about how new PIP magazine which I have strongly supported is just a slightly more radical version of the Light Green environmentalism on show in Green Lifestyle mag.

 

Permaculture as a brand of Australian environmentalism does focus on what we can do to look after the environment and future generations as we become more self reliant, productive and resilient individually, in our households and communities. Maybe permaculture can be viewed as a low eco-tech version of Bright Green that will allow us to live fulfilled lives without today’s systems or consumption of resources. But my Future Scenarios work let alone my more recent controversial essay Crash on Demand; Welcome to the Brown Tech World have suggested to some that I have shifted from optimist to pessimist about the future of humanity. I don’t think my perspective has shifted that much other than a response to what I see as the declining options available to future generations as industrial civilization accelerates toward a collision with nature and its internal contradictions. In many ways Crash on Demand is a strong Dark Green critique of the Bright Green and Deep Green perspectives while I largely ignore the Light Green perspective as being far to weak a response to the ecological crisis.

Kari’s framework certainly helped me make sense of Green Lifestyle magazine’s award to me. As co-originator of the permaculture concept I was partly responsible for the positive can-do attitude to improving the environment, that is permaculture. My lifestyle of radical simplicity combined with household and communitarian sufficiency, is an uncomfortable one for most trying to do their bit to live a greener lifestyle. Compared to the two previous recipients of this award, Bob Brown and Olivia Newton John, I am definitely more of an extremist.   Still, I thought, it is normal in any network or subculture to look to radicals rather than moderates for inspiration. We acknowledge and respect those who go the extra mile to “walk the talk” even if that means a stronger ideological commitment or pig headed personality than most in the same subculture would believe reasonable.

Beyond this recognition of pioneering radicals, I thought my permaculture lifestyle of radical simplicity and sufficiency is more in line with mainstream consumer environmentalism than it is with mainstream political environmentalism. In the debate about the personal being political vs structural change to the “system” I obviously more associate with the first view while Bob Brown has devoted his life more to the second perspective which is characteristic of Kari’s Bright and Deep Green environmentalisms. Viewed through this lens my Crash On Demand essay is actually an appeal to all environmentalists to take seriously the idea that what we do in our own lives is potent but only if what we do is radical in its simplicity and abundant in its real biological and communitarian productivity. Thus there is a direct line of evolution of action from Light Green to Dark Green. I doubt whether Kari’s framework let alone my musings reflect the decisions of the judges at Green Lifestyle Mag but this award and Kari’s framework has certainly reminded me that all responses to the ecological crisis have value in ways that are not necessarily obvious.

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Great debate, the video

My essay “Crash On Demand” was the primary influence in framing this year’s Great debate at the Sustainable Living Festival in Melbourne,  so we felt that I had to make time to be there (in the middle of our Rocklyn Ashram residential PDC  plus peak fruit and honey harvest).

With an audience of over 250 it was an opportunity to explain the logic of bottom up permaculture activism in response to the energy descent future and hear some of the other perspectives presented. The dichotomy of the unwieldy title, the dreaded C word and the “vote” gave me the gripes, but it was good fun and an opportunity to catch up with Nicole Foss after our joint public speaking tour last winter.

Here’s yours truly kicking off the debate.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=roO5FJZNmBM&w=560&h=315]

For those people who want to see the whole debate (nearly 2hr long, but you should), here is the entire Great Debate (Nicole Foss, about 35 min mark. About 1.20 min mark begins the summing up, voting and Q and A).

[vimeo 119722889 w=500 h=281]

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Permaculture Activism and the Future

I was recently asked by “permaculture actionary” Delvin Solkinson to provide some words for a newsletter promoting the next Rainbow Serpent Festival at which I’ll be speaking (several times). Very normal that a previous participant at one of our Advanced Permaculture Principles Courses should be asking me for a piece for an event he has the job to promote. Except for the fact that Delvin is based in the rainforests of British Columbia, Canada and the event is Rainbow Serpent Festival, that is held each dry dusty January  in our bioregional backyard.elvishBYdesign

My reply was

“Delvin, You ask difficult questions. Attached are a few words for your “Trans Pacific Partnership” project producing a local festival mag from the west coast of Canada.”

Inevitably I said too much for Delvin to use in full, but he thought it should be available somewhere, so here it is.

 

 

What are the roots or foundations of Permaculture?
Permaculture emerged from the fusion and ferment of environmental thinking of the 1970’s. It can be thought of as applied systems ecology with a strong debt to the work of Howard Odum. In another sense it was a branch of the tree of organic agriculture, with roots in many industrialised countries, in the early 20th century informed by pioneering work on sustainable agriculture by F.H. King who wrote Farmers of  Forty Centuries; Permanent Agriculture in China, Japan and Korea.   The emphasis on perennial plants, especially trees, was strongly informed by Russell Smiths Tree Crops; A Permanent Agriculture and the resurgence in interest in Economic Botany (useful plants), and indigenous use of plants and land management.  As a social movement permaculture originated in the Counterculture  applying an activist strategy to create the world we wanted rather than fighting to stop the world we didn’t want.  Early “back to the land” self sufficiency efforts outside the mainstream economy provided a context for early application of permaculture concepts. Although not overtly political, permaculture was  influenced by  both Anarchist and Libertarian philosophies.

What is the best way to become a permaculture actionary or ‘get on the ground’ ?
There are many different entry points to becoming a “permaculture actionary”. For some it starts with books, for others it is social and practical immersion without over intellectualizing, for many it is a Permaculture Design Course. Whatever the starting point, it should become clear that the most important application of permaculture ethics and principles is to the self, through a process of self audit of our needs, wants, dependencies, creative and productive outputs and byproducts of our very existence. Getting grounded in this way is the start of a personal retro-fit or redesign process which does not require that we wait until we own land or are with the right crowd. We can be our own guinea pigs in creating a better world. It is not necessary to tell the whole world first up but it certainly helps to connect with like-minded people for ideas and inspiration in building skills and capacities to help ourselves and others adapt to a rapidly changing world.

What is the future of permaculture that you would most like to see?
My hopes for permaculture range from the most general to the most specific. As a concept I hope it continues to be informed and infused with creative thinking and activism that arises from outside its own self-referenced world . In this way it will avoid stagnation in thinking and action and continue to exhibit hybrid vigour that can respond to a rapidly changing world. This inclusive mentality that acknowledges like minded concepts and networks reduces the problems of “turf warfare” between pioneering concepts that colonise the psycho social margins of mainstream society.

This holistic “jack of all trades” scope of permaculture needs to be balanced by a “mastery of one”. For each of us the calling and contribution to a better world will be many and varied. My hope is that enough permaculture practitioners dedicate their lives to making the founding permaculture vision of truly productive bioregional tree crop agricultures a reality able to survive the rigours of climate change and energy descent. Can we do the hard yards such that reality can match the rhetoric?

These ideas are further explored in

About Permaculture

Reverence for the Bunya Bunya

Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability

Future Scenarios

Collected Writings

Essence of Permaculture

Or take part and learn in the Permaculture Design Certificate course.

 

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Reverence for the bunya bunya

One of the critiques of permaculture is that, in attempting to be a theory of everything, it has failed to contribute real progress on any of the manifold fronts it addresses. Had Mollison and I spent our lives planting, managing and selecting oaks and bunya bunyas, we might have made a greater contribution to a benign energy descent future. On the other hand, we have inspired many others, a few of whom have contributed significantly to the still very slow expansion of knowledge of, breeding, and use of tree crops. Peter Brew was one of those few, a keen observer, independent thinker and energetic practitioner whose potential to contribute to a better energy descent future for humanity through tree crops, was cut short by personal misfortune exacerbated by an affluent but ignorant society unable to recognise, let alone reward, his genius. When Oliver and I harvest the first nuts from the Spring Creek Community Forest grove, I will start a new nursery bed to contribute to the hybrid vigour of the future bunya bunya groves of southern Australia to honour Peter’s contribution to an abundant future.

You can download the article Reverence for the bunya bunya (full text).

 

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Bushfire from a permaculture perspective

Screen shot 2013-10-18 at 7.34.41 PMBushfire rages in NSW and a state of emergency is declared.

Are these fires unprecedented? Possibly so this early in the season.

Do these fires reflect human induced climate change so far? Almost certainly.

Were the weather conditions particularly bad? Not so far, compared with Black Saturday in Vic.

Would a massively expanded burning program have prevented house loss?  Maybe, but with costs and side effects; including more accidental fire damage to property

Does the number of houses burnt reflect ferocity of the fires? Not particularly.

What does it reflect? The terrible landscape position of most housing on ridge tops above steep slopes and the extremely high flammability of Blue Mountains vegetation growing in a high rainfall, but very infertile, region.

Is there anything that can be done by the householder from a permaculture perspective?

Lots. Most importantly, unattended houses were between 3 and 8 time more likely to burn than attended (Blanchi & Leonard Bushfire CRC) In other words,  residents who stay and defend, have a high chance of saving a house (and a very high chance of survival even if the house burns because almost all houses burn after the fire front has passed).

The picture above (from ABC website) is one of the many houses burnt during the recent fire showing the relatively unscarred native vegetation around the remains after a very hot house (rather than bush) fire.  Bushfires do not in general demolish houses. Instead they create an ember storm that accumulates around the house and most importantly enters the roof space leading to ignition and intense fire in undefended houses (mostly after the fire front has passed).


Here are some of the resources on our website for building up bushfire resilience for both your house and community at large.
From our online shop, the following publications have ample information on the subject.

The Flywire House:A case study in design against bushfire (1983)

Melliodora: A case study in cool climate permaculture

The Complete Bushfire Safety Book by Joan Webster

The Essential Bushfire Safety Tips by Joan Webster

The following resources may also be of your interest.

Bushfire Resilient Communities and Landscapes (report 2009)

Bushfire Resilient Communities and Landscapes (presentation in the Blue Mountains 2011)

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Vale Errol Mutch

Errol

Errol Mutch explaining the worm composting system at Edendale Farm August 2003.

I never knew Errol very well but from my first meeting in the early 1990s when he was  the manager at Edendale City Farm in Eltham. I was impressed by the man, and what he and Cheryl had done to transform Edendale from an derelict animal pound to a great example of progressive environmental education. From that first time I was shown around the farm (as a consultant to the shire council) to hearing him sprouk to groups of school children or the public at field days, I recognised Errol as having that rare combination of  decades of farming experience with a passion for biodynamics and permaculture that I was more used to seeing in young environmentalists from urban backgrounds.

The development of Edendale as a public environmental education facility was of course shaped by all the usual factors of funding priorities, politics, bureaucracy and fashions but it also showed the care and attention of Errol and Cheryl’s stewardship that we usually associate with a well loved and cared-for private property. The animal systems in particular were exemplary in not only their good management but also in the significant contribution to maintenance of working strains of heritage rare breeds.

It was a tragedy of the times that this work was never recognised for its significant contribution to biodiversity conservation as defined by the UN Convention on Biodiversity. More than lack of recognition the progressive common sense environmentalism that Errol has demonstrated was undermined and dismantled by bureaucrats reflecting the “nativist” version of biodiversity that was so strong at Nillumbik shire council at the time.

To quote from a letter of support that I wrote in November 2004,

…..the best examples of the pragmatic and productive approach to sustainable land use, such as Edendale are subject to constant erosion by a nativist orthodoxy which dominates all levels of policy making and environmental education (not only at Nillumbik)  It seems ironic that the “state of the art” cost effective land and water management at Edendale with multiple environmental and social value outcomes is to be downgraded while much more expensive indigenous revegetation programs with questionable and unproven water quality and other environmental benefits are retained and reinforced.  The proposed removal of pigs from Edendale and downgrading of the poultry breeding systems without reference to independent evaluation by those with expertise in city farms is analogous to planting oak or pine trees in the shire’s best wildflower reserve without consulting experts in remnant indigenous biodiversity management. 
 
Edendale is one of the last places in Australia where a functional strain of  the Australorp poultry breed is being maintained. This is an Australian contribution to domesticated animal biodiversity and incidentally most of the original breeding and maintenance of the Australorp was in Nillumbik (at Research). Under the UN Convention on Biodiversity this flock constitute “threatened in-situ domesticated biodiversity”. Therefore Australian governments have a legally binding responsibility to conserve this flock.  While these responsibilities are not well known (your environmental staff may not be aware of this) it is an opportunity for Nillumbik to apply for funding to support the excellent biodiversity conservation work at Edendale.

I remember Errol as one of those rare “salt of the earth” natural environmentalists, who charted his own path in working with nature though the difficult decades when such ideas were rare and ignored, to then find a collegiate network of like minded people through the biodynamic, organic and permaculture networks, and finally to become a wise elder inspiring children and adults to find their own path in working with nature.

 

(Errol passed away peacefully Oct. 9, 2013 Aged 71 years.)

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Permaculture Pocket Knives

Back in February 2012, at the Sustainable Living Festival in Melbourne, I was challenged by a colleague about wearing a pocket knife, which he pointed out was illegal (without a genuine reason). This was news to me and intensified my feelings of alienation as a country person visiting the centre of a large city. What was the world coming to? But it also stimulated thought about what my genuine reasons for carrying a pocket knife in public might be and how that question was intimately connected to permaculture.  In April 2012 I penned an essay, Permaculture Pocket Knives, to explore the issue but it sat unpublished until now.  I offer it here  as providing an insight into permaculture as a social sub-culture that stands in contrast to many of the dysfunctional normalities that characterise modern living in an affluent society. (Permaculture pocketknives)

Forge

Weapons manufacture at Melliodora???
Oliver Holmgren testing a knife blade for straightness he had forged from an antique truck spring. Photo 2005, Oliver aged 19

 

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Monet’s Garden at Melliodora

An invitation to be a “pop up speaker” at the NGV’s Monet’s Garden Exhibition gave me an opportunity to address this vexed role of aesthetics in  permaculture, in a very special context.  I was speaking in the largest exhibition space surrounded by Monet’s magnificent water lillies. This post splices my speaking notes with a selection of photos from Melliodora that illustrate the points of the talk. I began my talk by saying “I feel like the devils advocate invited into the Vatican of aesthetics”

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