Archive | Uncategorized

2020 Permaculture Design Course Rocklyn Ashram

Friday 21 February – Saturday 7 March 2020

Are you looking to:

  • live a more sustainable life?
  • become less dependent on big business and supermarkets?
  • design a resilient system in the face of growing uncertainties?
  • retrofit your house, your community and your life?
  • meet like-minded people?

The course

A PDC can be a life changing experience. Join us in the unique environment of the Rocklyn Ashram and be taught by a mix of experienced and enthusiastic permaculture tutors including David Holmgren and Beck Lowe.

This is a fully residential, fully catered course running over 15 days with a short break in the middle. This is a completely immersive experience.

The course will be structured around Holmgren’s 12 permaculture principles (detailed in Permaculture: principles and pathways beyond sustainability) and goes beyond land-based design, bringing permaculture to all aspects of human living.

The venue

The course will take place at the Rocklyn Ashram, nestled in the Wombat Forest near Daylesford in Central Victoria. Only a one and a half hour drive from Melbourne, you will feel like you are in another world. Beautiful and quiet, this special space creates an ideal learning environment.

Taking part in the ashram’s daily yoga program can further enhance your learning and enrich your experience. The ashram environment exemplifies and provides an experience of living by permaculture ethics. The serene and spiritual focus of the ashram complements the mindfulness of permaculture practice and reminds us to balance our activity and think with reflection.

At times the ashram program and the intensity of the course can seem challenging, however almost all of the participants comment that the benefits continue long after the course ends.

Read more about the ashram lifestyle here.

The food

Delicious, wholesome and ethical meals will be prepared by Su Dennett and the ashram’s kitchen volunteers. Su will make sure that what you eat meets permaculture standards. Items will be sourced from local organic and bio-dynamic growers in a living example of using and maintaining sustainable food supply networks. You will be served vegetarian meals together with the ashram residents.

The accommodation

Accommodation is camping in the grounds of the ashram. You will need to BYO tent and gear. Alternatively you can choose to stay in a gender segregated triple share dorm room or a private room. Please note, these last two options incur additional fees.

Field Trips

You will visit a wide array of permaculture demonstration sites during the PDC, ranging from urban to rural and large scale to small scale properties. Some were built with permaculture principles in mind, such as Melliodora, the home of David Holmgren and his partner Su Dennett. And some have been retrofitted over a time, such a Tree Elbow, home of permaculture activists, Artist as Family.

House and Garden Tours

It’s great to sit and learn about the ethics and principles of permaculture but it’s on the field trips that it all comes to life. We feel very spoilt that we will have the opportunity to show you around the homes and gardens of the most exciting permaculture properties in the Central Victoria region.

Tutors

You will learn from the co-originator of permaculture, David Holmgren, experienced permaculture educator, Beck Lowe, and a team of excellent permaculture practitioners and tutors. Their depth of practical and theoretical knowledge will make this a very special PDC. There will also be opportunities to socialise with the presenters outside of session times.

Prerequisites?

There are no prerequisites for this course, but it is recommended you read the Essence of Permaculture if you have not yet done so. All other titles and writings by David Holmgren are highly recommended for those who have read Essence already. Please have a look through our online store or visit your local library.

Click here to register your place today.

0

The 2019 Venie Prize Winner

Thank you to all the poets who took the time to compose and send in poems to the 2019 Venie Holmgren Environmental Poetry Prize – we received 192 entries. The content of the poems was beautifully varied: some were engaging, some funny, some sad, delicate, considerate, angry, political, provocative…

A huge thank you to Claire Coleman + Kevin Brophy for judging the Prize, and to Claire for coming along to Sunday’s Words in Winter event where the winners were announced. You can read the judge’s report here.

Without further ado, this year’s winners are:

Winner
Hailey Bonner – God instructs His Angels to Burn the Notre Dame

Commended
Kristen Lang – A Heart Like This
A. Frances Johnson – The Poem After Forests

The Packing Room Prize (as chosen by the Holmgren Design office staff)
Kiara Lindsay – Greengage Plums in Preston

Words in Winter festival co-director Maia Irell welcomes everyone to the Prize presentation.

 

Event MC Cate Kennedy announces the Prize winner and commended poems.

 

Claire Coleman reads the winning poem and two commended poems.

 . .

Kiara Lindsay reads her Packing Room Prize winning poem.

 

A huge thank you to the Venie Prize co-sponsor, Rabbit: a journal for nonfiction poetry, the judges, Claire Coleman and Kevin Brophy, the Words in Winter directors, Maia Irell and Kevin Childs, presentation event MC Cate Kennedy, Jen Bray for taking the above photos, and of course all the poets who saw and felt deeply and sent us their words to read and reflect upon.

1

The 2019 Venie Holmgren Environmental Poetry Prize

Thank you to the 192 poets who submitted their poems to the 2019 Venie Prize.

SUBMISSION ARE NOW CLOSED for this year’s Prize.

In partnership with Rabbit: a journal for nonfiction poetry we are thrilled to announce the launch of the 2019 Venie Holmgren Environmental Poetry Prize. The specifics are as follows:

Major prize: AUD$1000

All entries must be received by 11.59 pm EST, Monday July 22 2019.
The shortlist and winner will be announced during the Daylesford Words in Winter festival, August 16, 17 & 18, 2019.
The judges for the 2019 competition are Claire C. Coleman and Kevin Brophy.

Entry terms and conditions

1. Entrants must be citizens of Australia or New Zealand or have permanent resident status in Australia or New Zealand.
2. Poems must be unpublished (including online) and not under consideration by other publishers.
3. Poems that have won or are under consideration in other competitions are not eligible.
4. Poems must have an environmental theme.
5. All poems must be written in English. No images, videos or audio files.
6. The winning poems will be published on www.holmgren.com.au and www.rabbitpoetry.com
7. An entry fee of $10 will be charged and is payable via bank transfer, PayPal, cash or cheque. A receipt will be sent as confirmation once the money has been received.
8. The name of the poet must not appear on the manuscript (including the header, footer or file name ) since all poems will be considered anonymously.
9. Poems must be no more than 80 lines of text.
10. Multiple entries are permitted, though a $10 fee applies to each poem.
11. Please ensure you are satisfied with your poem before submitting. Poems that are resubmitted will incur a second fee.
12. The competition closes 11.59 pm EST, Monday July 22, 2019.
13. Selection will be made by the judges. The judges’ decision is final. No correspondence will be entered into.


About the judges

Claire Coleman

Claire G. Coleman is a writer from Western Australia. She identifies with the South Coast Noongar people. Her family are associated with the area around Ravensthorpe and Hopetoun.

Claire grew up in a Forestry settlement in the middle of a tree plantation, where her dad worked, not far out of Perth. She wrote her black&write! fellowship-winning book Terra Nullius while travelling around Australia in a caravan. The Old Lie is her second novel.

Kevin Brophy

Kevin Brophy’s latest book is Look at the Lake (Puncher & Wattmann, 2018), a record of two years living in the Great Sandy Desert. In 2013, Walking,: New and Selected Poems was shortlisted for the WA Premiers Poetry Prize.

He was 2009 co-winner of the Calibre Prize for an outstanding essay; his poetry appears in many Best Australian Poems volumes and in major nationalanthologies. In 2015 he was writer-in-residence at Australia Council’s B. R. Whiting Studio in Rome, and in 2019-20 at the Keesing Studio in Paris. He is Emeritus Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Melbourne.


About Venie

Venie Holmgren

In her late 50’s Venie Holmgren began to write poetry and her first published anthology, The Sun Collection for the Planet in 1989, became a poetry ‘best seller’. At the same time, she applied her environmental activist skills and commitment to the campaign to save native forests near her home on the far south coast of NSW, where she was arrested twice for obstructing log trucks. After 16 years of solo self-reliant living she moved to the local town of Pambula where she penned her travel memoir, several more books of poetry and travelled widely as a performance poet. In 2010 Venie moved to Hepburn where she wrote her last poetry collection, The Tea-house Poems. In January 2016, Venie ‘caught the bus’ at the age of 93 .

You can read more of Venie’s life here:
www.theguardian.com/books/australia-books-blog/2015/mar/25/in-praise-of-venie-holmgren-at-92-still-an-activist-adventurer-and-a-poet


5

The Apology: from baby boomers to the handicapped generations

Climate activism by children is a sign of hope that young people might be ready for the radical alternatives that permaculture and kindred movements have been building in the darkening shadows of the destructive economy.

The Apology: from the baby boomers to the handicapped generations was penned by David Holmgren over the summer solstice of 2018 but it is a theme he has been mulling over for many years. Modelled on the Rudd Apology to the stolen generations, the following apology is a clear sighted admission of his generation’s failures from one of the pioneers of modern ecological thinking. It speaks directly to the generations inheriting a troubled legacy on multiple fronts. If this awakens recognition in baby boomers this apology will have been of value. If it galvanises a sense of urgency and positive personal and collective action by younger people then David still sees hope for a prosperous and equitable way down.

The Apology: from baby boomers to the handicapped generations

It is time for us baby boomers to honestly acknowledge what we did and didnt do with the gifts given to us by our forebears and be clear about our legacy with which we have saddled the next and succeeding generations.

By ‘baby boomers’ I mean those of us born in the affluent nations of the western world between 1945 and 1965. In these countries, the majority of the population became middle class beneficiaries of mass affluence. I think of the high birth rate of those times as a product of collective optimism about the future, and the abundant and cheap resources to support growing families.

By many measures, the benefits of global industrial civilisation peaked in our youth, but for most middle class baby boomers of the affluent countries, the continuing experience of those benefits has tended to blind us to the constriction of opportunities faced by the next generations: unaffordable housing and land access, ecological overshoot and climate chaos amongst a host of other challenges.

I am a white middle class man born in 1955 in Australia, one of the richest nations of the ‘western world’ in the middle of the baby boom, so I consider myself well placed to articulate an apology on behalf of my generation.

In the life of a baby boomer born in 1950 and dying in 2025 (a premature death according to the expectations of our generation), the best half the worlds endowment of oil – the potent resource that made industrial civilisation possible – will have been burnt. This is tens of millions of years of stored sunlight from a special geological epoch of extraordinary biological productivity. Beyond our basic needs, we have been the recipients of manufactured wants and desires. To varying degrees, we have also suffered the innumerable downsides, addictions and alienations that have come with fossil-fuelled consumer capitalism.

It is also true that our generation has used the genie of fossil fuels to create wonders of technology, organisation and art, and a diversity of lifestyles and ideas. Some of the unintended consequences of our way of life, ranging from antibiotic resistance to bubble economics, should have been obvious, while others, such as the depression epidemic in rich countries, were harder to foresee. Our travel around the world has broadened our minds, but global tourism has contaminated the amazing diversity of nature and traditional cultures at an accelerating pace. We have the excuse that innovations always have pluses and minuses, but it seems we have got a larger share of the pluses and handballed more of the minuses to the world’s poorest countries and to our children and grandchildren.

We were the first generation to have the clear scientific evidence that emergent global civilisation was on an unsustainable path that would precipitate an unravelling of both nature and society through the 21st century. Although climate chaos was a less obvious outcome than the no-brainer of resource depletion, international recognition of the reality of climate change came way back in 1988, just as we were beginning to get our hands on the levers of power, and we have presided over decades of policies that have accelerated the problem. Over the years since, the adverse outcomes have shifted from distant risks to lived realities. These impact hardest on the most vulnerable peoples of the world who have yet to taste the benefits of the carbon bonanza that has driven the accelerating climate catastrophe. For the failure to share those benefits globally and curb our own consumption we must be truly sorry

 Photo: woodleywonderworks

In the 1960s and 70s, during our coming of age, a significant proportion of us were critical of what was being passed down to us by our parent’s generation who were also the beneficiaries of the western world system, which some of us baby boomers recognised as a global empire. But our grandparents and parents had been shaped by the rigours and grief of the first global depression of the 1890s, the First World War, The Great Depression of the 1930s and, of course, the Second World War. Aside from those who served in Vietnam, we have cruised through life avoiding the worst threats of nuclear annihilation and economic depression, even as people in other countries suffered the consequences of superpower proxy wars, coups, and economic and environmental catastrophes.

While some of us were burnt by personal and global events, we have mostly led a charmed existence and had the privilege to question our upbringing and culture. We were the first generation in history to experience an extended adolescence of experimentation and privilege with little concern or responsibility for our future, our kin or our country.

Most baby boomers were raised in families where commuting was the norm for our fathers but a home-based lifestyle was still a role model we got from our mothers. In our enthusiasm for women to have equal access to productive work in the monetary economy, few of us noticed that without work to keep the household economy humming we lost much of our household autonomy to market forces. By our daily commutes, mostly alone in our cars, we entrenched this massively wasteful and destructive action as normal and inevitable.

As we came into our power in middle age, the new technology of the internet, workshop tool miniaturisation and other innovations provided more options to participate in the monetary economy without the need to commute, but our generation continued with this insane collective addiction. In Australia, we faithfully followed the American model of not investing in public transport, which moderated the adverse impacts of commuting in European and other countries not so structurally addicted to road transport. By failing to build decent public transport and the opportunities for home-based work, and wasting wealth in a frenzy of freeway building that has choked our cities, our generation has consumed our grandchildren’s inheritance of high quality transport fuels and accelerated the onset of climate chaos. For this we are truly sorry.

In pioneering the double income family, some of us set the pattern for the next generation’s habit of outsourcing the care of children at a young age, making commuting five days a week an early childhood experience. This has left the next generation unable to imagine a life that doesn’t involve leaving home each day.

These patterns are part of a larger crisis created by the double income, debt-laden households with close to 100% dependence on the monetary economy. Without robust and productive household economies, our children and grandchildren’s generations will become the victims of savage disruptions and downturns in the monetary economy. For failing to maintain and strengthen the threads of self-provision, frugality and self-reliance most of us inherited from our parents, we should be truly sorry.

Photo from here.

Some of us felt in our hearts that we needed to create a different and better world. Some of us saw the writing on the walls of the world calling for global justice. Some of us read the evidence (mostly clearly in the 1972 Limits To Growth) that attempting to run continuous material growth on finite planet would end in more than tears.

Some of us even rejected the legacy of previous generations of radicals’ direct action against the problems of the world, and instead decided we would boldly create the world we wanted by living it each day. In doing so, we experienced hard-won lessons and even created some hopeful models for succeeding generations to improve on in more difficult conditions. That our efforts at novel solutions often created more sound than substance, or that we flitted from one issue to another rather than doing the hard yards necessary to pass on truly robust design solutions for a world of less, leaves some of us with regrets for which we might also feel the need to apologise.

These experiences are shared to some degree by a minority in all generations but there is significant evidence that the 1960s and 70s was a time when awareness of the need for change was stronger. Unfortunately, a sequence of titanic geopolitical struggles that few of us understand even today, a debt-fuelled version of consumer capitalism, and propaganda against both the Limits to Growth and the values of the counterculture, saw most of us following the neoliberal agenda like sheep into the 1980s and beyond.

After having played with the privilege of free tertiary education, most of us fell for the propaganda and sent our children off to accumulate debts and doubtful benefits in the corporatised businesses that universities became. We convinced our children they needed more specialised knowledge poured down their throats rather than using their best years to build the skills and resilience for the challenges our generation was bequeathing to them. For this we must be truly sorry.

Many of us have been the beneficiaries of buying real estate before the credit-fuelled final stages of casino capitalism made that option a recipe for debt slavery for our children. Without understanding its mechanics we have contributed to – and fuelled with our faith – a bubble economy on a vast scale that can only end in pain and suffering for the majority. While some of us are members of the bank of Mum and Dad, when the property bubble bursts we could find ourselves following the bank chiefs apologising for the debt burden we encouraged our children to take on. Some of us will also have to apologise for losing the family home when we went guarantor on their mortgages. For not heeding the warnings we got with the GFC, we will be truly sorry.

Some of us have used our windfall wealth from real estate and the stock market to do good works, including creating small models of more creative and lower footprint futures that have inspired the minority of the next generations who can also see the writing on the wall. But most of us used our houses as ATMs for new forms of consumption that were unimaginable to our parents, from holidays around the world to endless renovations and a constant flow of updated digital gadgets and virtual diversions. For this frivolous squandering of our windfall wealth we must be truly sorry.

While our parents generation experienced the risks of youth through adversity and war we used our privilege to tackle challenges of our own choosing. Although some of us had to struggle to free ourselves from the cloying cocoon of middle class upbringing, we were the generation that flew like the birds and hitchhiked around the country and the world. How strange that on becoming parents (many of us in middle age) we believed the propaganda that the world was too dangerous for our children to do the same around the local neighbourhood. Instead we coddled them, got into the chauffeuring business, and in doing so encouraged their disconnection from both nature and community. As we see our grandchildren’s generation raised in a way that makes them an even more handicapped generation, we must be truly sorry for the path we took and the dis-ease we created.

After so many of us experimented with mind-expanding plants and chemicals, some of us were taken down in chemical addictions, but it was dysfunctional and corrupt legal prohibitions more than the substances themselves that were to blame for the worst of the damage. So how strange that when in middle age we got our hands on the levers of power, most of our generation decided to continue to support the madness of prohibition. For this we must be truly sorry: to have seen the light but then continued to inflict this burden on our children and grandchildren. For having acquiesced in the global ‘war on drugs’ that spread pain and suffering to some of the poorest peoples of the world we should be ashamed.

When the ‘war on drugs’ (a war against substances!) became the model for the ‘war on terror’ (war against a concept!) some of us reawakened the anti-war activism of the Vietnam years but in the end we mostly acquiesced to an agenda of trashing international law, regime change, shock and awe, chaos, and the death of millions; all justified by the 9/11 demolition fireworks that killed a small fraction of the number of citizens that die each year as a result of our ongoing addiction to personal motorised mobility.

While the shadow cast by climate change darkens our grandchilden’s future, the shadow of potential nuclear winter that hung over our childhood as not gone away. Many of us were at the forefront of the international movement to rid the world of nuclear weapons and thought the collapse of the Soviet Union had saved us from that threat. Coming into our power after the end of the cold war, our greatest crime on this geopolitical front has perhaps been the tacit support of our generation for first, the economic rape of Russia in the 1990s, and then its progressive encirclement by the relentless expansion of NATO. In Australia we have meekly added our resources and youth to more or less endless wars in the Middle East and central Asia justified by the fake ‘war on terror’. For this weakness as accessories to global crimes wasting wealth and lives to consolidate the western powers’ control of the first truly global empire, we should hang our collective heads in shame.

While some of our generation’s intellectuals continued to critique the ‘war on terror’ as fake, the vast majority of the public intellectuals of our generation, including those on the left, have supported the rapid rise of Cold War 2.0 to contain Russia, China and any other country that doesn’t accept what we now call ‘the rules based international order’ (code for ‘our empire’). This is truly astonishing when looked at in the context of our lived history. Let us hope that sanity can prevail as our empire fades and future generations don’t brand us as the most insane, war-mongering generation of all time. For our complicity in this grand failure of resistance we should be truly sorry.

Photo of the author by Jesse Graham

 
On another equally titanic front, the mistake of giving legal personhood to corporations was not one that our generation made. However most of us have contributed our work, consumption and capital to assist these self-organising, profit-maximising, cost-minimising machines of capitalism morphing into emergent new life forms that threaten to consume both nature and humanity in an algorithmic drive for growth. At a time of our seniority and numbers, we failed to use the Global Financial Crisis as an opportunity to bring these emergent monsters to heal. Do our children have the capacity to tame the monsters that we nurtured from fragile infants to commanding masters? And if they do find the will to withdraw their work, consumption and capital enough to contain the corporations, will the economy that currently provides for both needs and wants unravel completely? This is a burden so great most of us continue to believe we have no responsibility or agency in such a dark reality. We trust that history will not place the burden of responsibility on our generation alone. But for our part in this failure of agency over human affairs we apologise. Further, we should accept with grace the consequences for our own wellbeing.

Most of us feel impotent when thinking of these failures to control the excesses of our era, but on a more modest scale we have mindlessly participated in taking the goods and passing on the debt to future generations. No more so than in our habitual acceptance of antibiotics from doctors to fix the most mundane of illnesses. For our parents’ generation, antibiotics represented the peak of medical science’s ability to control what killed so many of their parents and earlier generations. For us, they became routine tools to keep us on the job and our children not missing precious days at school. Through this banal practice we have unwittingly conspired with our doctors to rapidly breed resistance to the most effective and low-cost antibiotics. We took for granted that future generations would always be able to work out ways to keep ahead of diseases with an endless string of new antibiotics. For having squandered this gift we are truly sorry.

Further, despite the fact that some of us have became vegetarian or even vegan, our generation’s demand for cheap chicken and bacon has driven the industrial dosing of animals with antibiotics on a scale that has accelerated the development of antibiotic resistance far faster than would have been the case from us dosing ourselves and our children. For supporting this and other such obscene systems of animal husbandry we apologise to our grandchildren and succeeding generations and hope that somehow an accommodation between humanity, animals and microbes is still possible.

We experienced and benefited from the emergent culture of rights and recognition for women, minorities and the people of varied abilities, and many of us who fought to extend and deepen those rights have pride in what we did. However some of us are beginning to fear that in doing so we contributed to creating new demands, disabilities, and fractious subcultures of fear and angst unimagined in previous generations. While we might not be in the driving seat of identity politics and culture wars, we raised our children to demand their rights in a world that is unravelling due to its multiple contradictions. In this emerging context, strident demands for rights are likely to be a waste of valuable energy that younger people might better focus on becoming useful to themselves and others. For overemphasising the demand for rights and underplaying the need for responsible self- and collective-reliance, perhaps we should also be sorry.

And is this escalating demand for rights by younger people itself connected, even peripherally, to the increasing callus disregard for the rights of others? Especially in the case of refugees, this careless disregard has allowed political elites to use tough treatment of the less fortunate to distract from the gradual loss of shared privilege that once characterised the ‘lucky country’. To the shame of those in power over the last two decades (mostly baby boomers) those policies are now being adopted on a larger scale in Europe and the US.

In our lifetimes religious faith has declined. For many of our generation, this change represents a measure of humanity’s progress from a benighted past to a promising future. But the collective belief in science and evidence-based decision making has now become a new faith, “Scientism”, which seeks to drive out all other ways of thinking and being from the public space. At the same time, religious fundamentalism is now resurgent. Is this too something that our generation unleashed by preaching tolerance while enforcing an ideology we didn’t even recognise as such?

A significant sign of the good intentions of our generation has been our recognition that the ancient war against nature, which has plagued human life since the beginnings of agriculture, and indeed civilisation, must end. One powerful expression of our efforts has been the valuing of the biodiversity of life, especially local indigenous biodiversity. In the ‘New Europes’ of North America and the Antipodes, seeking to save indigenous biodiversity has grown into an institutionalised form of atonement for the sins of the forefathers. While this seems like one of our achievements, even this we have bastardised with a new war against naturalised biodiversity. Perhaps the worst aspect of this renewed war against novel ecologies is that we have accepted the helping hand of Monsanto in using Roundup as the main weapon in our urban and rural habitats. The mounting evidence that Roundup may be worse than DDT will be part of our legacy. While history may excuse our parent’s generation for naïve optimism in relation to DDT, our generation’s version of the war on nature will not save us from harsh judgement. For this we should be truly sorry.

Of course any public apology in this country invites comparisons to the apology by governments to the stolen generation of Australian indigenous peoples for the wrongs of the past. This unfinished sorry business is beyond the scope of this apology, but it is an opportunity to reflect critically on our common self-perception of supporting indigenous peoples’ rights in contrast to the normalised racism of previous generations. Our generation’s invitation to, and enabling of, Australians of indigenous decent to more fully participate in mainstream Australian society may have been a necessary step towards reconciliation; or could it have been a poison challis drawing them even deeper into the dysfunctions of industrial modernity that I have already outlined. We can only hope that people with such a history of resilience and understanding in the face dispossession will take these additional burdens in their stride.

In any case, this apology is not one that comes from a position of invulnerable privilege, giving succour to those who are no threat to that privilege. For many baby boomers, now caring for parents and dealing with their deaths, we are more inwardly focused. For some of us, especially those estranged from parents, through this both painful and tender processes we are finally growing up. But a comic tragedy could play out in our declining years if a combination of novel disabilities, the culture of rights and amplified fears lead to our children and grandchildren’s generations to mostly experiencing harder times as far worse than they might really be, and deciding we are the cause of their troubles.

We baby boomers will increasingly find that in our growing dependence on young people we will be subject to their perspectives, whims and prejudices. Hopefully we can take what we are given on the chin and along with our children and our grandchildren’s generations we can all grow up and work together to face the future with whatever capacities we have.

We might hope this apology is itself a wake-up call to the younger generations that are still mostly sleepwalking into the oncoming maelstroms. In raising the alarm we might hope our humble apology will galvanise the potential in young people who are grasping the nettle of opportunities to turn problems into solutions.

We hope that this apology might lead to understanding rather than resentment of our frailty in the face of the self-organising forces of powerful change that have driven the climaxing of global industrial civilisation. Finally, the task ahead for our generation is to learn how to downsize and disown before we prepare to die, with grace, at a time of our choosing, and in a way that inspires and frees the next generations to chart a prosperous way down.

 

David Holmgren

Permaculture co-originator
Summer solstice 2018

24

Reflections on fire – February 2019

From the research for Permaculture One in the 1970s in the house Bill Mollison saved from the great 1967 fires, to the research for the Flywire House project in the aftermath of Ash Wednesday fires of 1983 to the publication of Bushfire Resilient Landscapes and Communities in the aftermath of Black Saturday (2009), permaculture responses to the risks of bushfire have been a central theme of my life’s work. Although I have many friends who have faced and fought these and other great fires of the last 60 years, my direct fire fighting experience has been limited to 5 fires of more modest proportions.  

Before moving to Hepburn in 1985 I had assessed the town as the most fire vulnerable I had seen in Victoria but I was confident we could build a bushfire resistant house, and fire retardant permaculture landscape on our property, where we could stay and defend through the worst case scenarios. The case study book about Melliodora we published in 1995 included a theme page on bushfire resistant design and our household bushfire plan.

The Mannings Rd Hepburn Fire (2 & 3rd Feb 2019) was the first direct bushfire threat to Melliodora.

Over the years we have updated our bushfire plan but on Black Saturday 2009 I began implementing aspects of our plan never before tested, even though there were no fires in our region. Two weeks later a 7,000 hectare fire on the south side of Daylesford, that created a panic in our community, provided another psychological boost to testing our fire plan. Black Saturday also triggered a significant upgrade of our fire fighting equipment, retrofits to some buildings, tweaks to our fire plan and a renewed focus on work on the public land to our north.

From the beginning we had been informally managing the public road reserves surrounding our property and in the late 1980’s teamed up with fourth generation local Vern Howell in making tracks and planting fire retardant trees that could shade out the blackberries in the gully that ran down to Spring Ck 300m to the north of Melliodora. By the mid 1990s a bunch of locals doing work in our gully and along Spring Ck had built tracks and planted trees as far afield as the edge of the Mineral Spring Reserve upstream and downstream to the Newstead Rd over Breakneck Gorge as well as in Doctors gully. We called our patch The Spring Creek Community Forest, ran tours and advertised working bees and engaged with people in the parks authorities that we called “the department of many name changes”.

This informal, unfunded, unapproved permaculture inspired version of landcare (without the paperwork or poisons) represents a reinhabitation of community commons that prior to the 1960’s had been managed by house cows, rabbit trapping, blackberry harvesting and other active uses of the crown land that was denuded of vegetation and soil (to the bedrock in the creek) by gold mining in the 19th century.

Dr Michael Wilson, a leading expert on willow ecology was part of our crew when he did his PhD on willows in Spring Ck. Over the years since he as supervised another half dozen PhDs on willows in central Victoria providing the scientific evidence that willows were rebuilding a water and nutrient holding corridor along creeks among other ecological benefits. For us this rehydration of the landscape was closely linked to our aim to accelerate ecological succession from the broom, blackberry and gorse thickets to a shady canopy of fire retardant (predominantly deciduous) trees. We knew the woody weeds were rapidly building soil but they were socially unsustainable and in the event of a severe bushfire would lead to calls to blitz the gullies with herbicide and fire to recreate the moonscapes of the gold mining era. We knew grazing animals, especially goats had a role in managing vegetation and were not opposed to some careful use of fire on the dry rocky slopes, but were concerned that burning the moist gully and creek floors would be a huge setback.

After the turn of the millennium the greatest threat to the maturing 2km corridor of mostly deciduous trees (predominantly willow, poplar, sycamore and European ash) in Spring Creek was the willow removal programs being implemented around the catchment by North Central Catchment Management Authority (NCCMA). Following the publicity for Peter Andrews’s Natural Sequence Farming (that included using willows to rehydrate eroded creek courses in NSW) we pushed back as NCCMA destroyed the willow corridor downstream of Breakneck Gorge.

We added a page to this website on Spring Ck Community Forest, engaged with the authorities in efforts to constrain if not stop what I regard as the greatest misuse of public money damaging the environment all in the name of Landcare which we called Land Abuse.

As the millennial drought dragged on we increased our use of goats in our gully in recognition that a slow succession to more a fire retardant landscape dominated by deciduous trees was not happening fast enough.

Goats in Spring Creek Community Forest

When we saw the smoke column on Saturday 2nd Feb we were empowered to act. With unprecedented water demand in our gardens and orchard and the creek dry earlier in the season than ever before (for only the 5th time in 35 years), we knew our work in the gully and creek could be set back by a hot fire. We were less concerned with the chances of a catastrophic fire that would challenge our ability to defend our property and certainly were very confident and empowered to do so. As the fire burnt slowly down the escarpment on the Saturday evening the three households that currently share Melliodora began implementing our bushfire plan. Confident that the home patch was in good hands, I decided to check out the fire (with a competent off sider). We were dressed for fire fighting, had a knapsack sprayer, two fire rakes and a two-way radio.

Photo: Brenna Quinlan, property adjacent to Melliodora.
Photo shows fire at its most active state.

As CFA brigades attacked the fire on Elevated Plain, water bombing helicopters hit hotspots on the steep escarpment and Brigades were marshalled to protect the town, we cleared 150 metres of break along the main walking track below the fire in the hope of protecting the creek corridor, which we knew was dry enough to burn.

As dusk fell we pulled out and connected with CFA brigades watching the fire at the end of our street. From them we learnt that the local group of CFA brigades had scenario planned this exact fire in recent months using the bushfire modelling software developed by Kevin Tolhurst and colleagues. With few other fires burning and reasonable conditions it was clear that the following day would see a major effort to contain and extinguish the fire.

We hit the sack (in our summer tent) with rotational watches. Unable to sleep with the crash of burning trees on the escarpment and bulldozers putting in fire breaks in territory we regarded as our backyard, Su and I headed out for a 4am reconnaissance, which confirmed the fire had stopped at the creek corridor.

The following day with a maximum Forest Fire Danger Index forecast of 55 (just in “Severe” territory) we were well prepared to defend the upper sections of our gully, in addition to the property and politely declined the police invitation to evacuate. Our son Oliver who had been on the Fryerstown CFA truck fighting the fire on the escarpment the previous day joined us before the roads in and out of Hepburn were closed by the authorities.

While coordination and communication between the 8 able bodied adults at Melliodora involved some challenges for which I as “Melliodora fire captain” take full responsibility, Su and I were both very energised by and confident about our situation. What I was less prepared for was the full force of the state funded bushfire response. Having experience in supervising bulldozers and other earthmoving machinery on large projects such as Fryers Forest Ecovillage in the 1990’s had not prepared me for the psychological impact of bulldozers in our gully, Elvis and other massive helicopters, fire retardant bombers and spotter planes weaving across the sky and strafing our creek all day. While CFA volunteers in the town mostly sat around on standby ready to defend houses in our street, all the direct fire fighting was done from the air (apart from ongoing action on Elevated Plain.

Later analysis on the ground and using the CFA software that tracks each water release showed that, as the breeze picked up and the humidity dropped on Sunday the fire was moving into the creek corridor at two places and had already crossed Woman’s Gully at a point directly threatening houses in Golden Springs Ave. Concentrated water bombing contained these leading edges while the very well placed dozer break backed by fire retardant laid across the flammable blackberry, gorse and eucalypts of the dry north facing edge of the creek valley provided a fair chance of containing the fire had the predicted wind eventuated.

View from under the unburnt willow canopy of Spring Creek
looking up the Elevated Plain escarpment.

Lower than expected wind speed and precision water bombing meant we did not face spot fires in our gully and there were no properties directly impacted by fire in the township. The placement of the breaks and the location of fire retardant drops were done in ways that treated the creek corridor as an asset rather than a liability and subsequent tours of the firegrounds with CFA professionals, including fire behaviour experts confirmed that there is a lot to learn in studying the contribution of the willow corridor to ameliorating the potential impact of the fire.

While spectacular, the burn on the Elevated Plain escarpment was no hotter than many fuel reduction burns with most of the large wide spaced mature manna gums showing no canopy scorch. While we were very lucky with the weather and think the expenditure of around 5 million dollars (guesstimate) in state funded airpower was critical in protecting Hepburn, the experience has strengthened our resolve to keep working to enhance and protect the Spring Creek Community Forest from fire and any other threats. We know that the willows will catch the sediment from the bulldozed breaks, the fire retardant (fertiliser) dropped from the air and the ash from the escarpment, to grow even stronger while protecting the Jim Crow Creek, Loddon River and Cairn Curren Reservoir from blue green algae blooms.

Fire-felled mature manna gum into the Spring Creek flood plain

On the community front we are encouraged by the progress of the CFA initiated group that is forging common understandings and actions supported by the diverse views in our local community. Council support for a goat grazing and hand tool management proposal on 180 acres of trial sites around the town is a sign of progress. Closer to home, as I showed CFA professionals around following the fires, I was chuffed to see a long time local out in the blackberries with his sheep. The following week I met his son and a mate using chain saws and brushcutters clearing up what we call the “Vern Howell arboretum” in the heart of Spring Creek. To see the next generation of locals taking ownership over their backyard made my day.

In the end the Hepburn fire was small (28 hectares), and the response from the authorities was a textbook example but we still assume that in the Black Saturday scenario where catastrophic fires are burning everywhere in the state, we will not have such help, even if the Kinglake scenario of no warning and zero fire defence, (other than residents) is avoided. Such a large deployment for a small fire runs the risk of creating complacency in our community.

Hopefully the positive outcomes from the fire will continue and our landscape and community resilience to face fire in the future will be enhanced.

Copy of CFA map recording fire area, breaks and features
in relation to Melliodora (bottom left)
10

RetroSuburbia: out in the world

After four years in the making, RetroSuburbia is finally out there in the world. Weighing in at 1.8kg and 592 full colour pages, she is an absolute beauty, and the whole team here couldn’t be prouder. In fact, we are excited beyond words.

Here are some photos from Saturday’s book launch at the National Sustainable Living Festival at Birrarung Marr in Melbourne.

Thank you to Peter O’Mara for MCing the event, to Costa for launching it, to Formidable Vegetable Sound System for getting us up and dancing, and to Oliver Holmgren for these beautiful photographs:

From L-R Robyn Rosenfeld, Richard Telford, David Holmgren, Costa Georgiadis

An unmistakably beautiful Melbourne scene

Formidable Vegetable Sound System

Costa Georgiadis holding RetroSuburbia while wearing his retro shirt while Peter O’Mara looks on

“Here it is, folks!” says David Holmgren.

MC Peter O’Mara with David Holmgren

David Holmgren + Mariam Issa swap books

Charlie Mgee + Richard Telford

From L-R: Mariam Issa, Charlie Mgee, Mal Webb, Kylie Morrigan

From L-R: Costa Georgiadis, Su Dennett, Charlie Mgee, Mal Webb, Kylie Morrigan, David Holmgren



For those who missed it or want to re-live this momentous event in permie history, here is the full recording which is divided into 3 parts. Thanks to Greg Noy for the footage:

* * *

The day after the launch, David was busy again, this time on a panel entitled Transforming the Suburbs.

The speakers were:
David Holmgren – Permaculture co-originator
Costa Georgiadis – Gardening Australia, ABC TV
Dominique Hes – Melbourne University
Michael Ableman – Sole Food Street Farms, Canada
Kat Lavers – Permaculture practitioner
The event was MC’d by Nick Ritar from Milkwood Permaculture.

The expert panel creatively explored sustainable actions, key strategies and resilience-based concepts for future suburban responses to localised and global ecological challenges. The audience was provided expert analysis and thought-provoking ideas on how suburbia will be a vital place to survive and thrive in challenging futures. The discussion centred on ideas that positively contribute towards low-energy and carbon positive sustainable home and community living and how we can all make a shift towards creatively adapting to a more sustainable way of living.

The panel was recorded by ABC Big Ideas. You can listen here.

Photos by Oliver Holmgren.

From L-R: Nick Ritar, Dominique Hes, Costa Georgiadis, David Holmgren, Kat Lavers, Michael Ableman

From L-R: Dominique Hes, Costa Georgiadis, David Holmgren, Kat Lavers

In the Dome, Birrarung Mar, Melbourne

* * *

Don’t have your copy of the book yet? Head on over to www.retrosuburbia.com to order your copy today!

2

2018 Advanced Permaculture Planning + Design Process

Have you completed a PDC but feel there is more you’d like to learn?
Are you interested in design principles and ethics but are not quite sure how to integrate the processes into your thinking, designing and decision making?

On this four-day residential course, tutors David Holmgren and Dan Palmer will take you through various approaches and methods that they implement in their own design processes to help you establish your own framework for designing and living. Here is the rundown of the April 2017 course:

2017 course participants + presenters

After the inaugural Advanced Permaculture Planning and Design Process course, Dan wrote a comprehensive overview of the 4-day residential, which is highly recommended reading.

Participants are encouraged to arrive on the night of April 2 and camp over, ready to begin the course at 9am on the 3rd. Dinner will be provided on the 2nd, and brekky on the 3rd, as well as all subsequent meals for the duration of the course.

The course is limited to 30 participants and bookings are essential. Once you have booked you will be sent more details.

More information + bookings here.

4

Persimmons, pumpkins and permie dancing

With the corn we harvested and shucked in March, we cooked up a delicious feast of tortillas.

IMG_5044We dug up potatoes to store for winter,

IMG_5049

and relocated naughty runaway artichokes.

IMG_5088

We exhaled deep sighs of relief with the coming of the rain,

IMG_5093

and we farewelled Lori, who returned to the US. Lori, pictured here with this season’s latest fashion, the scarf biologique, is our last MIAOW (Melliodora Interns and Other Workers) for a while. Ordinarily we don’t take MIAOWs over the winter, though we do start booking people in to come and stay from September onward. This year we are taking an extended break from our usual MIAOW scheduling as we look forward to settling the Milkwood crew in to their new digs in early July.

Lori_Maola

We heartily welcomed these gorgeous visitors with their generous box of shroomy delights. Thanks Tess and Oliver!

IMG_5055

Last month, the R/1 students from the Yorketown Area School in South Australia created a book of drawings for Charlie Mgee after listening to his music during their Science, Literacy and Music lessons. Charlie received this book at the Food Forest in SA where David was teaching at this year’s PDC.

Charlie and David

As we hung up the last of our tomato vines to ripen

IMG_5106

we welcomed the onset of citrus season and look forward to rereading Morag Gamble’s great post on Ways to Use Abundant Mandarins (fruit & peel).

IMG_5099

Autumn really is the season of giving thanks. Here is Su with the gorgeous Kat Lavers exchanging persimmons for pumpkins. Thanks Kat! You made Su sooooooo happy.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We had another visitor join us here in Hepburn. Woody from Artist as Family came and spent the day being the apprentice’s apprentice. Your care and gentleness was much appreciated, Mitch,

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAas were your awesome dance moves.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Thanks too for taking this photo of this morning’s frost, the first big one for the season.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Thanks to Hamish and Christian, too, for their work building the stone wall on the east side of the house. It’s looking so good!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OK. That’s enough chit chat. It’s been fun and all but we’d better get back to work. Hope you are working hard and dreaming big, filling your barrows with pleasures accumulated and shared.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

If you are considering writing a poem for the Venie Holmgren Environmental Poetry Prize, our inbox still has plenty of room. Entries close July 15 so there’s still lots of time.

0

Venie Holmgren passes after colourful and nourishing life

IMGP2385

Wednesday January 27th Venie finished writing her life long poem. An adventure filled with 93 years of words, feisty activism and wry humour. She moves on leaving vivid memories in her brothers Norman and Gordon, her children Jenny (partner Chin) and David (partner Su), grandchildren Oliver, Kimon and Jody as well as many others she touched over many years of wordsmithing and friendship.

 

She will be celebrated at Poets Corner, Melliodora 16 Fourteenth St Hepburn on Tuesday 9th Feb at 10.30am. The burial will follow at Franklinford cemetery.

 

 

 

venie(young) (1 of 1)Venie Holmgren(nee Rich) was the second youngest of 11 children, born to immigrant jewish parents in York, Western Australia. In 1946, Venie Rich married Jack Holmgren a (non-jewish) comrade in peace activism against nuclear weapons and, later Australia’s involvement in Vietnam (documented in her Vietnam memoir – in press 2016). They had three children Jenny, David and Gerald and were active in community affairs from their home in Fremantle suburb of Bicton. Venie and Jack also were business partners in Rellim Booksellers(Perth), one of the best technical bookshops in the country in the 1970s.

 

After Jack’s death in 1975 Venie spent her gypsy years travelling in a campervan (documented in her travel memoir A Sense of Direction. The bush property, at Wyndham on the Far South Coast of NSW, where she settled was designed and established with her son David, the co-originator of the permaculture concept. Venie’s Wyndham property is documented in the case study Permaculture In The Bush.

 

In her late 50’s Venie began to write poetry and her first published anthology, The Sun Collection 1989, became a poetry “best seller”. At the same time, she applied her activist skills and commitment to the campaign to save native forests of the region, being arrested twice for obstructing log trucks. After 16 years of solo self reliant living she moved to the local town of Pambula where she penned her travel memoir, several more books of poetry and travelled widely as a performance poet.

 

After the unexpected death of Gerard (Gerald) in 2010 she left her community of choice to join her son David, daughter-in-law Su Dennett and grandson Oliver at Melliodora, their home and permaculture demonstration site in Hepburn, central Victoria. While waiting for the completion of the second handmade-house built for her by David, she wrote The Tea-house Poems, that has received wide acclaim. See Kevin Child’s article In Praise of Venie Holmgren: at 92 still an activist, adventurer and poet, published in the Guardian March 2015. During the last couple of years of life, her house mate Rick helped her with the publication of The Tea house Poems and, along with other local friends, satisfied Venie’s love of Scrabble. Venie’s last move of her long life, was up the road to Hepburn House where she made an impression on the staff with her sharp mind and tenacity.

 

Venie Holmgren at 2012 Words In Winter, being introduced by Glen Heyne and accompanied by Maureen Corbett on harp

 

Venie Holmgren speaking to Tim Metcalf at the 2007A.C.T. Writing & Publishing Awards

Venie Holmgren speaking to Tim Metcalf at the 2007A.C.T. Writing & Publishing Awards

 

 

Venie in her self sufficiency days (early 80s) on her bush property at Wyndham on South Coast of NSW

Venie in her self sufficiency days (early 1980s) on her bush property at Wyndham on South Coast of NSW

Venie (and David Holmgren 15th months) in the 1956 May Day March Fremantle WA

Venie (and David Holmgren 15th months) in the 1956 May Day March Fremantle WA. Photograph from ASIO file.

 

6

Melliodora Studio available for the month of January only.

A unique opportunity to experience Melliodora by staying at the studio for a couple of nights or even a week. The Studio is available for this brief time only. It is a very modest, energy efficient, passive solar home that uses recycled and natural materials surrounded by a small productive home garden and is nestled at the bottom of Melliodora. Enjoy lots of walks to the Blowhole, Hepburn pool and Spring Creek. Enjoy the goats and the geese. Some Melliodora produce will be available and the weekly veggie box scheme (Wednesdays) can feed a family of 4 or 5 for just $35. Some bulk dry goods are also available then.

IMG_0488IMGP9555

2 storey, greenhouse bathroom and compost toilet, solar hot water and grid feedback electricity. Wood stove or small gas cook top, tank water and reed bed grey water

Sleeps 4 upstairs. Maximum 6.

Small garden for you to enjoy and nice views over Melliodora, premiere permaculture home to co founder David Holmgren and family. Get a feel for a a low impact lifestyle and enjoy country living in the heart of Hepburn

 House rules and a bond apply

$560/week or $140/nightIMG_8244

for booking email [email protected] or call Su on 03 5348 3636

0