Tag Archives | David Holmgren

Permaculture Tour at Melliodora – May 30, 2021

There is no better way to learn how the household economy works than to take part in the whole day guided tour at Melliodora. Situated in the Victorian central highlands, Melliodora is one of the best examples of working cool-temperate climate permaculture in the country. At Melliodora you can see how permaculture can produce an abundance of food and other yields from a beautiful living environment.

The one hectare property has been transformed from the blackberry covered wasteland in 1985 into a model of small scale intensive permaculture. David Holmgren and his partner Su Dennett will show you how their passive solar house, mixed food gardens, orchards, dams and livestock, as well as creek revegetation, have been developed and maintained. The Melliodora garden farming model is most relevant to large town blocks and small rural allotments, but you don’t have to have a large block to gain a huge amount from the tour. All people will discover ways that they can apply the underlying principles and strategies to their own situation.

The Whole Day Tour includes morning + afternoon teas, while the Garden Only Tour includes afternoon tea. Participants are encouraged to BYO lunch to enjoy under the 100 year-old pear tree or to visit one of the local cafés in Hepburn or Daylesford during the lunch break from 1pm.

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Permaculture Tour at Melliodora – April 4 2021

There is no better way to learn how the household economy works than to take part in the whole day guided tour at Melliodora. Situated in the Victorian central highlands, Melliodora is one of the best examples of working cool-temperate climate permaculture in the country. At Melliodora you can see how permaculture can produce an abundance of food and other yields from a beautiful living environment.

The one hectare property has been transformed from the blackberry covered wasteland in 1985 into a model of small scale intensive permaculture. David Holmgren and his partner Su Dennett will show you how their passive solar house, mixed food gardens, orchards, dams and livestock, as well as creek revegetation, have been developed and maintained. The Melliodora garden farming model is most relevant to large town blocks and small rural allotments, but you don’t have to have a large block to gain a huge amount from the tour. All people will discover ways that they can apply the underlying principles and strategies to their own situation.

The Whole Day Tour includes morning + afternoon teas, while the Garden Only Tour includes afternoon tea. Participants are encouraged to BYO lunch to enjoy under the 100 year-old pear tree or to visit one of the local cafés in Hepburn or Daylesford during the lunch break from 1pm.

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Food Forest PDC with David Holmgren April/May 2021

The Food Forest’s next PDC is scheduled for April/ May 2021.

David Holmgren will be participating via Zoom for this PDC rather than making his annual trip across from Victoria during these uncertain COVID times.

The full details for the 2021 PDC will be listed on The Food Forest website.

Please register your interest here.

See below for some general info about our PDC.

Why study permaculture?

Join Graham & Annemarie Brookman, David Holmgren and guest presenters at The Food Forest for internationally-recognised permaculture training that will help you design sustainable, abundant homes, businesses, professions and communities.

Whilst population growth and consumption levels are pushing our Planet towards a catastrophic environmental tipping point, permaculture design offers a way that we, as individuals and communities, can take control of our future and live sustainably.

It is a design system which draws upon the great truths of traditional knowledge, modern scientific understandings and the ethics of a peaceful and democratic society. Developed in Australia in the late 70’s by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren, it is now taught in over 100 countries. Hundreds of thousands of people have graduated from Design Courses and are using this tool to build resilience and diversity into their lives, their local communities & in the workplace.

Permaculture can be employed by anyone, whatever profession or skill, on any scale, from balconies and backyards to farms, factories, businesses, schools and cities anywhere on the planet and in any climate. It offers a sustainable landscape, dignified human-scale living and self-reliant children who have the confidence to design a sustainable future for themselves.

It is based on three ethics: Care of the Earth, Care of Community and Acceptance of personal responsibility for consumption and population. Many practical design principles, technologies and strategies have evolved to make permaculture one of the most accessible and dynamic solutions to the issues we face in the 21st Century.
David Suzuki dubs permaculture ‘Australia’s greatest intellectual export’.

Permaculture Design Certificate

10 days spread out over three teaching blocks. The next PDC is scheduled for April/ May 2021 and will be programmed to comply with our COVID-19 safe plan.

This 10 day intensive design course, taught at The Food Forest will present you with an opportunity to consider your life in a new light and give you increased confidence and many skills needed to design a sustainable and meaningful place for your future.

You will work with a group of motivated fellow students with diverse skills and backgrounds and learn through lectures, practical activities, small group work, case studies, DVDs, field trips and games. In addition to our experienced teaching team, you will have access to a wide range of printed and digital resources.

The extended format of the course is designed to cause minimum disruption to other parts of your life. It will allow you to absorb and practise skills from one learning block before moving on to the next. However, the residential aspect is important, as it helps you become fully immersed in learning about sustainable living.

Sessions are scheduled on most evenings, but we finish at 5pm on the last day of each block. The first teaching block is 5 days, the 2nd, 3 days and the last, 2 days. Whilst this format may seem less than ideal if you are from a distant location, many participants use it as an opportunity to visit friends, permaculture projects or WWOOF between teaching blocks. In The Food Forest PDC you will work on a major design project of your choice. Many of the excellent designs have been implemented around the world.

Whilst many people study permaculture as a design system for their personal and/or professional lives, successful completion of the course will qualify you for a Permaculture Design Certificate which makes you eligible to practice or teach permaculture commercially. The course may also be recognised as relevant prior learning towards the completion of requirements for the nationally accredited VET Certificate IV in Permaculture.

Topics

The course at The Food Forest will cover such topics as:

  • Permaculture ethics, principles & design of sustainable systems
  • Reading landscape, land capability assessment, site mapping
  • Personal, family and community strategies
  • Passive solar design for houses and structures
  • Sustainable energy sources, ‘waste’ and recycling
  • Appropriate human settlements, architecture and planning
  • Linking of design elements for maximum efficiency
  • Soil management/ Soil health: improvements and maintenance
  • Urban and rural farming and gardening
  • Orchard and food forest design and practice
  • Alternative economic models & legal structures
  • Catchments, water management (urban & rural) and aquaculture
  • Revegetation, agroforestry, bush food and wildlife
  • Value-adding and direct marketing of food
  • Application of Permaculture Design in all professions & trades
  • Design for extreme events

Whilst many examples will be drawn from warm temperate environments (as experienced in South Australia), care will be taken to make the teaching relevant to other climatic areas.

We stress that the PDC is a design course and there is insufficient time to cover the fine detail of managing elements such as how to care for chickens or grow mushrooms. We, and others, do offer workshops on obtaining, such skills.

Principal Tutors

David Holmgren, co-originator of the concept of permaculture, will be presenting during the first part of the course, providing a unique opportunity to update your values and techniques or start your permaculture career at the cutting edge.  In 2003 David published “Permaculture: Principles & Pathways Beyond Sustainability”, a book which was the first significant development on the permaculture concept since Bill Mollison’s “Permaculture Designers’ Manual” (1988). David continues to refine permaculture in his writings and research. His new book, ‘RetroSuburbia’ was launched in 2018 and is a key reference for practical urban design. To find out more about David and permaculture, see www.holmgren.com.au.

 

Annemarie Brookman is co-owner of The Food Forest and runs its organic market garden and busy office. She organises The Food Forest’s stall at the Adelaide Farmers Market and coordinates volunteers and staff at the property. She has observed societies, crafts and cuisines in many countries. Her passion for local, wholesome, delicious and visually beautiful food and her skills as a designer are expressed in a direct and practical manner. She is expert in the integration of poultry and vegetable production and is a keen observer & photographer of insect ecosystems. Time management, small scale marketing, engaging children in gardening, mentoring to empower people to get involved with the future of their food and sustainable home-building are included in her talents. She is qualified in permaculture design & training, art and craft.

 

Graham Brookman has experienced land use all over the world and his search for ecologically sustainable farming systems led him to the permaculture model devised by Mollison and Holmgren. Graham has put the model to the test and teaches his findings in an energetic, interactive and practical style. Discovering how to build with straw bales has given Graham free rein with the construction of an amazing series of beautiful and environmentally responsible structures. He has taught hundreds of others how simple it is to use straw bales in building anything from a garden bench to a house. He is a qualified horticulturalist, teacher and permaculture designer and was founding chairman of the Adelaide Showground Farmers Market and the Gawler Environment Centre. Though first a farmer and horticulturalist, he has been involved in town planning and has made numerous educational films.

 

Guest Tutors and Field Visits

A wide range of guest tutors, selected for skills and qualifications in their particular field and their commitment to sustainable living and permaculture will also teach in the course. Extensive notes are provided. Tours will visit a wide variety of outstanding examples of permaculture and the people who are making it work, in & near Adelaide.

Venue

The Food Forest is a remarkable 20 hectare, certified organic permaculture farm and learning centre that is the result of the passion and vision of owners Graham & Annemarie Brookman. From its buzzing biodiversity come over 150 varieties of organically grown fruit and nuts, wheat and vegetables, honey and carob beans, as well as free range eggs, nursery plants and timber. Most of The Food Forest’s produce is sold at the Adelaide Farmers Market. We’ll be harvesting and eating some of the products during the PDC!

Broadband and Wi-Fi access are available in the teaching area and accommodation studio.

Teaching and research

The farm conducts research into organic growing and climate change adaptation and hosts collections of tree crop varieties representing a unique genetic resource, willingly shared with others wishing to establish sustainable plantings. Valuable information about the hydrogeology of the Adelaide Plain has come from the farm’s scheme to draw floodwater from the Gawler River and recharge the aquifer underlying the locality, to offset declining water levels and quality. The Food Forest has drawn upon inventive technologies for water harvesting and underground water storage in India, to capture and transform stormwater into a valuable input.

The Food Forest also has an extensive short courses program which complements the PDC. The property operates as one big teaching area and course participants will be involved in a hands-on permaculture project such as revegetation or garden construction.

History

The heritage-listed, pioneer homestead and much of the history of the farm have been retained. When the Brookmans bought the property in 1986, it was not much more than a bare barley paddock; only a few towering River Red Gums remained along the Gawler River from the time when the Kaurna Aboriginal people camped in their shade and gathered food from the land. The riparian understorey had become a mass of boxthorn, prickly pear and sour sob and the soil was degraded from years of continuous cropping. The indigenous riparian ecosystem has now largely been restored, and the revegetation systems developed have been adopted by other groups.

A movie made about the river repair is at www.youtube.com/watch?v=m_r62zvWKhk

Sustainable building technology

An old stone barn has been transformed into a Learning Centre for the presentation of courses and workshops. Nearby is the government-approved ‘loo with a view’, a Clivus Multrum composting toilet & reedbed system which transforms human by-products into reeds for mulching, rich compost for fertiliser and saves many thousands of litres of water every year.

Environmentally responsible building technologies are also demonstrated in ‘The Studio’, Cellar-door, an Eco-gazebo, the tiny ‘Cosy Cottage’ and a Coolroom, all of which are constructed with straw bales.

The Cob Oven shows the ancient craft of building with special mud mixtures.

The extension to the heritage-listed homestead is an exemplar of passive solar design using a fusion of straw bale, stone and well-insulated corrugated iron.

Rainwater is collected for use in the house; grey and black water is treated by a reedbed system and used in orchard irrigation. Solar panels heat the water and photovoltaic cells provide the house with almost 7kW of green electricity; surplus power is fed into the grid. 2020 will see 26kW system go on to the roof of a major shed to supply electricity for food storage and processing.

Awards & ABC TV

  • 2016 Permaculture Elders Award for Contribution to Permaculture
  • 2013 Winner, Barossa Regional Food Awards
  • Finalist Premier’s Natural Resources Management Award: Service to NRM
  • 2012 Honourable mention in The (En)Rich list: Post Growth Institute
  • 2011 Adelaide Showground Farmers Market: Chef’s Inspiration Award
  • 2009 Australia Day Corporate Citizen Award, Town of Gawler
  • 2007 Winner SA Premier’s Food Awards: Environmental Sustainability
  • 2006 Finalist National Banksia Environmental Awards, Education category
  • 2005 Winner Nature Foundation SA, Good Business Environment Award for Environmental Responsibility & Leadership
  • 2004 Winner Premier’s Food Awards Leadership in Sustainable Industry
  • Finalist Year of the Built Environment, Exemplars Program
  • 2003 Winner Organic Federation of Australia National Award Best Organic Producer. Runner up for the Best Organic Education Project.
  • 2005, 2001 State finalist National Landcare Awards
  • ABC Gardening Australia:  Episode 10: A farming special on June 2, 2012. See the 7 minute, permaculture focussed segment on: www.abc.net.au/gardening/factsheets/food-glorious-food/9433756

YouTube – Food Forest TV Channel

The Food Forest has made 30 micro movies with experienced cinematographer/video editor Sam Collins, to create ‘how to’ videos, ranging from practical straw bale building techniques to controlling codling moth in your apple trees and restoring your watercourse.

See the films at www.youtube.com/user/TheFoodForest

Food

Meals are included in the registration and include vegetarian, vegan and omnivorous options. Delicious, healthy, local and in season is important to us! A lot of the food served at the course will be harvested from The Food Forest, including as many varieties of fruit, vegetables and herbs. We have also preserved produce from the different seasons. We don’t produce everything; milk, cheese, bread, grains, pulses, meat will be sourced locally, in many cases direct from the producers. We do our best to cater for different needs but as we are cooking for a substantial number of people, please note that for very specialised dietary requirements you may need to bring some of your own supplies.

Come Prepared

We strongly recommend reading some of the following texts. Many of these texts are available though David Holmgren’s online store or visit your local library:

Books:

  • David Holmgren’s new Book (2018) ‘RetroSuburbia: the downshifter’s guide to a resilient future
  • Permaculture: Principles & Pathways Beyond Sustainability, David Holmgren. His website: www.holmgren.com.au, has an abstract of his book as a free download. Look for ‘Essence of Permaculture’. Easy to read and not too long.
  • Introduction to Permaculture, Bill Mollison & Reny Slay – Tagari (www.tagari.com)
  • The Holistic Life by Ian Lillington, Axiom Australia, (publ 2007)
  • Permaculture Designers Manual, Bill Mollison – Tagari (This is the standard reference book for designers but it is not a ‘light’ read) (www.tagari.com)
  • The Permaculture Handbook, Peter Bane, 2012, New Society Publishers, Canada
  • Permaculture Design, A step-by-step guide, Aranya, Permanent Publications, 2012
  • People & Permaculture, Looby Macnamara, Permanent Publications, 2012 (loobymacnamara.com/home/)
  • Permaculture Pioneers, stories from the new frontier, edited by Kerry Dawborn & Caroline Smith, publ: www.holmgren.com.au
  • Gaia’s Garden, Toby Hemenway, 2009 2nd ed, Chelsea Green
  • The Permaculture City: Regenerative Design for Urban, Suburban, and Town Resilience, Toby Hemenway, 2015, Chelsea Green
  • Edible Cities: Urban Permaculture for Gardens, Balconies, Rooftops & BeyondJudith AngerImmo Fiebrig, Permanent Publications, 2013
  • Tropical Permaculture Guidebook – McKenzie and Lemos (www.permacultureguidebook.org)
  • PIP magazine: Australia’s permaculture magazine. Full of great articles – wonderful to subscribe to!

Web-based:

DVDs

There are many other Permaculture book titles, DVDs and there is a lot to google about Permaculture. Have fun!

For Details

Annemarie Brookman at The Food Forest:

Postal: PO Box 859, Gawler SA 5118, Australia

P: +61 (0)8 8522 6450

E: [email protected]

Location: 80 Clifford Rd, Hillier, SA 5116. 20 min walk from Tambelin Railway station on the Gawler line.

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Permaculture Design Course Rocklyn Ashram

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.

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.

Read More >

 

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.

 

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.

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Permaculture Tour at Melliodora – February 14, 2021

There is no better way to learn how the household economy works than to take part in the whole day guided tour at Melliodora. Situated in the Victorian central highlands, Melliodora is one of the best examples of working cool-temperate climate permaculture in the country. At Melliodora you can see how permaculture can produce an abundance of food and other yields from a beautiful living environment.

The one hectare property has been transformed from the blackberry covered wasteland in 1985 into a model of small scale intensive permaculture. David Holmgren and his partner Su Dennett will show you how their passive solar house, mixed food gardens, orchards, dams and livestock, as well as creek revegetation, have been developed and maintained. The Melliodora garden farming model is most relevant to large town blocks and small rural allotments, but you don’t have to have a large block to gain a huge amount from the tour. All people will discover ways that they can apply the underlying principles and strategies to their own situation.

The Whole Day Tour includes morning + afternoon teas, while the Garden Only Tour includes afternoon tea. Participants are encouraged to BYO lunch to enjoy under the 100 year-old pear tree or to visit one of the local cafés in Hepburn or Daylesford during the lunch break from 1pm.

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‘Our Street’ Panel SLF

2021 Sustainable Living Festival panel

When: Sunday Feb 7 7pm – 8.30pm

Where: Online via ZOOM

Cost: Free!

Stories for the Future

What might the future of suburbia look like? Our Street, a new picture book, provides inspiration.

David Holmgren, permaculture co-originator, has been presenting his Aussie Street story for decades.

Beck Lowe and Brenna Quinlan have brought Aussie Street to life in an inspirational new picture book called Our Street.

Join them as they discuss: Why a picture book? What is the role of imagination in creating a better world? How can suburban living be more resilient, sustainable, and fulfilling in an uncertain future?

Our Street will inspire children, parents, and educators, whilst reflecting on Australian history.

Please register for this free event and the Zoom link will be emailed to you:

Register here

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Permaculture Tour at Melliodora – January 10, 2021

There is no better way to learn how the household economy works than to take part in the whole day guided tour at Melliodora. Situated in the Victorian central highlands, Melliodora is one of the best examples of working cool-temperate climate permaculture in the country. At Melliodora you can see how permaculture can produce an abundance of food and other yields from a beautiful living environment.

The one hectare property has been transformed from the blackberry covered wasteland in 1985 into a model of small scale intensive permaculture. David Holmgren and his partner Su Dennett will show you how their passive solar house, mixed food gardens, orchards, dams and livestock, as well as creek revegetation, have been developed and maintained. The Melliodora garden farming model is most relevant to large town blocks and small rural allotments, but you don’t have to have a large block to gain a huge amount from the tour. All people will discover ways that they can apply the underlying principles and strategies to their own situation.

The Whole Day Tour includes morning + afternoon teas, while the Garden Only Tour includes afternoon tea. Participants are encouraged to BYO lunch to enjoy under the 100 year-old pear tree or to visit one of the local cafés in Hepburn or Daylesford during the lunch break from 1pm.

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When does a book become news?

When does a book become news?

When it becomes a bestseller? 

When its author is famous or influential?

When it develops a cult following of readers? 

When it addresses the circumstances of a large segment of the population? 

When social media algorithms reinforce awareness of the book?

When it addresses critical issues to the future of society and nature, be that through fiction or nonfiction?

So why would a book that meets all of these criteria fail to be news?

What makes a book newsworthy is still largely determined by the intellectual gatekeepers of serious journalism, based on numbers of reviews in mainstream print and broadcast media. But for books to be reviewed, they almost always need to come from established publishers  – the most important gatekeepers in determining what gets published. 

This is largely determined by financially rational formulae developed by the publishing industry predicting likely numbers of bestsellers, break-evens and lemons. Beyond these ruthless metrics, a significant number of books are published because mostly smaller publishers decide the book is important, and they chose to take the financial risk, or even loss, to see it published.

The power of established publishers to be the gatekeepers has of course been declining for decades. First in the 1980s, when the almost occult art of typesetting was replaced by software, then in the 1990s when the rise of the internet stimulated network communities of authors and readers, through to today’s digital publishing, social media and crowdfunding that allow a multiplicity of voices to be “published” in different ways. While these changes have levelled the playing field for writers and other creators, allowing a greater diversity of voices, it has led to what some may see as a “Balkanisation” of our cultural commons or even a “Tower of Babel” when different subcultures do not understand, let alone value, anything from outside their own tightly reinforcing sources of information and influence. This could be a contribution to, or perhaps just a symptom of, the decline in globalised industrial civilisation, or at least the western world dominated version that is fracturing under the weight of its internal contradictions. 

In times of crises such as this, established elites have historically tried to maintain their power by more rigid, even fundamentalist, application of norms. Swirling chaotic social diversity threatens to engulf the ivory towers of not only academia and science, but the sacred heart of politics and its religious ideology of economics guided by the priests of finance. Open enquiry, which is part of the proud heritage of the enlightenment, is increasingly closed to ideas, art and the chaotic diversity that finds expression in the virtual market place, the street and, especially, at the interface between society and nature in the rural hinterlands. New networked and increasingly virtual communities form around their own self-reinforcing versions of reality, reinforced by algorithms that feed off confirmation biases.

Competing groups of elites battle each other for control of the algorithms to tame these expressions of wild creativity, resistance and downright dysfunction for their own Machiavellian ends. Ironically, professional journalism has itself become similarly dependent on its own self-reinforcing versions of reality about what is important and even what constitutes news. In many cases, all journalists do is recycle the same angles on the same stories, while different angles, let alone different stories, increasingly do not compute for those without the protection once offered to serious journalism by the broadsheet newspapers and public broadcasters. This is compounded by the shrinking attention span of audiences and the 24/7 news cycle. 

Meanwhile the most potent new actors using the power of the internet to speak truth to power find themselves increasingly under threat, with the greatest of them all, Julian Assange, being destroyed by a combination of character assassination, psychological torture and the most spectacular corruption of legal process (which makes authoritarian regimes elsewhere in the world scorn the hypocrisy of so-called western democracies). 

These and other forces are increasingly leading to journalism and media failing to fulfil one of its functions: providing early warnings to society at large, or even to the elites of forces from the periphery that represent new creative opportunities or existential threats.

This myopic focus in all matters on the centre rather than the periphery is a failure to understand or apply the permaculture design principle “Use edges and value the marginal”.

What is permaculture? A fashionable form of gardening or self-sufficient living? So what has that got to do with such weighty issues, or this rave about book publishing?

Maybe a little history is in order, especially for Australian journalists still caught in the cultural cringe that everything of importance, especially to the future of civilisation, must come from the centres of empire in the northern and western hemispheres.

Over time, historians may come to recognise Tasmania as the crucible of the global environment movement. This outpost of Anglo-American culture represents the interface between nature and civilisation. More than a decade before the sustainability discourse of the 1980s, it gave birth to both the first green political party in the world, and a world-changing movement for the redesign of humanity’s relationship to nature. 

In 1977, 15 mainstream publishers approached a cantankerous senior tutor (of psychology) and a graduate (of environmental design) wanting to publish their manuscript about “permaculture”, a term the authors had coined to describe their vision for redesigning agriculture, and culture, from first (ecological) principles. Permaculture One, published in 1978 by Corgi in Australia, was perfectly timed to catch the first great wave of modern environmentalism. The genius, charismatic personality, and tireless efforts of the older co-author Bill Mollison, especially through residential Permaculture Design Courses (PDCs) held around the world, seeded permaculture as a world-wide agent of positive influence in environmental thinking. Some regard this as Australia’s greatest intellectual export.

Despite the success of Permaculture One, that early experience with the publishing industry led both co-authors to separately pursue more DIY approaches to publishing. Bill Mollison took back the rights to Permaculture One from Corgi for later print runs under his Tagari Publishing imprint as well as translations in six languages, as well as his Permaculture Two in 1979, and his opus Permaculture: A Designers’ Manual in 1988. That 600-page book of unruly ideas, plus brilliant drawings by colleague Andrew Jeeves, was created on a Mac Classic (with a 9” screen) in the northern NSW hinterland. As with Permaculture One, The Designers’ Manual, was perfectly timed for the second wave of modern environmentalism from ‘87 to ‘92 and has sold thousands of copies around the world.

After the experience of being a successful author at the age of 23, the other co-originator of permaculture applied another permaculture design principle, “Use Small and Slow Solutions”, to his journey in book publishing. A series of case studies of his design and implementation work that no publisher would have considered (had they been asked), more than covered costs with no funding from benefactors. These helped influence many within permaculture networks who were hungry for documentation of the application of permaculture design (see Permaculture in the Bush, 1992; The Flywire House, 1993; Trees on the Treeless Plains, 1994; Melliodora, 1996). 

Regarded as a quiet practitioner within the movement, David Holmgren surprised many with Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability, a deep conceptual dive into the ethical and design foundations of the concept, self-published through Holmgren Design Services in 2002. Despite its abstract, and at times difficult, text, this was the first publication for which the author actively sought mainstream media reviews. Even with launches by well-known Melbourne comedian and environmental activist Rod Quantock, charismatic leader of The Greens in federal parliament, Bob Brown, and the ABC’s Robin Williams, an East coast book launch tour, and selling out of the first print run of 5000 in less than two years, there were no book reviews in any mainstream Australian newspaper or broadcast.

The author’s impression that the power of the internet had broken that of the gatekeepers in mainstream media was wrong, with reviewers automatically discarding any self-published book.

Another thing “wrong” with the book was its combination of abstract and difficult to grasp ecological systems theory, social comment, down to earth examples and personal anecdotes that no professional editor or publisher would typically accept within the same book.

After selling 10,000 copies, Holmgren Design unsuccessfully pitched a story to the producers of “Books and Writing” on ABC Radio National, about this self-published book of complex ideas selling that many copies here and overseas, with translations pending and no mainstream media reviews. The success of permaculture in the popular imagination as a cool form of organic gardening or self-reliant rural living acted as an inhibitor to it being considered as contributing to the sustainability debate, let alone other serious issues affecting society. 

For those involved in the already diverse international permaculture movement, the framework of design principles in Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability clarified the universal application of permaculture ethics and design principles beyond the garden and the farm, and spread awareness of the concepts outside of what some criticised as the “cult” confines of permaculture. Despite its abstraction, carefully crafted icons, a website devoted to the ethics and principles of permaculture, a teaching kit, incredibly popular electro-swing music and myriad other expressions of this work have seen these powerful thinking tools used by practitioners, teachers and activists in active positive responses to the environmental crisis, from cities to remote hinterlands of the richest and poorest countries.

Successive waves of growth in the interest in, and influence of, permaculture have increased the profile of permaculture’s younger co-originator, especially after Bill Mollison’s death in 2016. Publishing (under the imprint Melliodora Publishing) now includes other permaculture authors, editors and illustrators, and distribution by Permaculture Principles bypasses the online distribution monopolies to provide fair return to creators and publishers.

Image from here

So when Holmgren’s decades-long research, teaching and writing about the capacity to retrofit the built, biological and behavioural fields of suburbia culminated in a 600-page, full colour, richly illustrated, printed in Australia book, RetroSuburbia: the downshifter’s guide to a resilient future (2018), one might assume that what is left of the mainstream media might take note. Despite the book and the marketing strategy being unashamedly targeted to the SE Australian market where the majority of Australians live, with events supported by local government drawing crowds from 30 to 300, a foreword by Gardening Australia’s Costa Georgiadis, a website of case studies and supporting information, a growing Facebook community page, an article in the New York Times (amongst other global interest) and the first print run of 5000 selling out in 8 months, there were no reviews of RetroSuburbia in Australian capital city newspapers or broadcast media (other than an interview by Jon Faine on ABC Melbourne radio). 

Unlike the dense heavy text of Principles and Pathways, the language of RetroSuburbia is accessible and engaging. A book weighing 1.8kg, retailing at $85, and without mainstream distribution selling out that quickly must represent some sort of publishing record in Australia. Far from being a one-day wonder, the second print run sold out with the rush of interest as the pandemic storm clouds gathered. An online edition of the whole book on a “Pay What You Feel” basis has so far reached over 6500 readers while sales of the physical book increased. Interest in home-based living has exploded during the pandemic and there are lots of signs that some of these changes are a wake-up call for many (for more on Holmgren’s thoughts on this, see “RetroSuburbia roadmap”, “The problem is the solution” and other 2020 posts on holmgen.com.au). 

Like the realisation that commuting to work is an unnecessary waste of time for a lot of people, destroying the amenity of cities while accelerating climate chaos, reviving the household non-monetary economy through growing food, fixing stuff, educating kids and caring for elders makes more sense. And it may become a necessity if vast swathes of the non-essential economy, from air travel to cappuccinos, fail to recover. 

The RetroSuburbia Community Facebook page jumped from 5000 to over 10,000 in a month as interest in household-based self-reliance exploded across our residential heartlands and hinterlands. 

“Aussie St”, a permaculture soap opera of empowering transformation in the Second Great Depression of the 2020s, Holmgren’s much-loved presentation and a fictional chapter in RetroSuburbia, is an ideal hook for the media to use to begin discussions around “the D word”. But with the Reserve Bank and Government desperate to prevent the deflation of the Australian property bubble, “Aussie St” and the wider retrosuburban strategy would be regarded as economic treason. Whether by Machiavellian self-censorship, just dumb ignorance about the diverse threats to business as usual, or the widespread belief in the left-leaning environmental mainstream that household level change has minimal impact on “the system”, the mainstream media continues to treat permaculture as a form of eco-fashion. The inherently anarchic nature of permaculture activism, the lack of a strong national voice on major policy debates, and the huge class and political diversity of those practicing permaculture have inhibited it being a force in Australian society commensurate with its persistent but subtle influence over more than four decades. This under-the-radar influence in Australia has many of its advocates smile at being ignored, with the definition often given on PDCs of permaculture being “revolution disguised as gardening”. 

If there was ever a time for the mainstream media in Australia to wake up to the power of permaculture influencing the lives of hundreds of thousands here, and millions around the world, and its central relevance to the big issues of our time, this is it. Whether it is the necessary transition to a renewable energy base, resilience to climate chaos, relocalising our economies and revitalising our household and community non-monetary economies, the shape of our cities, the inevitable contraction of our globalised, corporate-dominated economies or, of course, the redesign of agriculture and all other forms of land use from the backyard to the bioregion, there is a permaculture perspective that could be explored. 

RetroSuburbia provides the perfect way for mainstream journalists to connect with ordinary people facing today’s challenges, while simultaneously highlighting new perspectives on the big issues facing our nation and the wider world.

When they get the picture, we will hopefully get serious debate of permaculture responses to the challenges of we face, individually and collectively. Once these ideas are on the radar of established interests, we will no doubt also see attempts to denigrate and ridicule rather than debate. In the current climate of hysteria dividing people around identity politics, Holmgren expects a fair dose of fire as an older white male who has lived a fortunate life, presuming to tell us how to live. But as they say, any publicity is good publicity.

Holmgren is happy to engage in serious debates and to shine the spotlight on how permaculture thinking gives us the power to change how we experience the challenges we all face. For the tens of thousands of Australians who have done a PDC, and the perhaps hundreds of thousands who have been influenced by the ideas, permaculture is definitely out of the closet and spreading across the suburbs, whether the mainstream media notices or not. 

The Melliodora Publishing team, December 2020

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Permaculture Tour at Melliodora – December 6 2020

There is no better way to learn how the household economy works than to take part in the whole day guided tour at Melliodora. Situated in the Victorian central highlands, Melliodora is one of the best examples of working cool-temperate climate permaculture in the country. At Melliodora you can see how permaculture can produce an abundance of food and other yields from a beautiful living environment.

The one hectare property has been transformed from the blackberry covered wasteland in 1985 into a model of small scale intensive permaculture. David Holmgren and his partner Su Dennett will show you how their passive solar house, mixed food gardens, orchards, dams and livestock, as well as creek revegetation, have been developed and maintained. The Melliodora garden farming model is most relevant to large town blocks and small rural allotments, but you don’t have to have a large block to gain a huge amount from the tour. All people will discover ways that they can apply the underlying principles and strategies to their own situation.

The Whole Day Tour includes morning + afternoon teas, while the Garden Only Tour includes afternoon tea. Participants are encouraged to BYO lunch to enjoy under the 100 year-old pear tree or to visit one of the local cafés in Hepburn or Daylesford during the lunch break from 1pm.

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Our Street Book + Permaculture Action Cards Launch

Calling all kids and adults!

Melliodora Publishing and Grow Do It Permaculture Education invite you to attend the online launch of Our Street and Permaculture Action Cards.

Our Street (based on the Aussie Street story from RetroSuburbia) is a fully illustrated storybook for upper primary school-age children. It explores how suburban life changes between the 1950s and 2020s, and provides a positive vision of the future. It is a useful tool for parents and educators to help inspire children with positive solutions for sustainable and resilient living, whilst reflecting on Australian history. Written by David Holmgren + Beck Lowe and illustrated by Brenna Quinlan.

The Permaculture Action Cards are made up of 65 full-colour cards. The deck features the 3 permaculture ethics, 12 principles and 50 Brenna Quinlan illustrated action cards depicting colourful characters putting them into practice in the garden, community and beyond as well as relevant lyrics & rhymes from Formidable Vegetable on the back of each card. Also included is a booklet with games and explanations of the principles as well as an A3 colour poster that can be used as a teaching aid.

The launch will feature David Holmgren, Su Dennett, Beck Lowe, Brenna Quinlan, Charlie Mgee and special musical guests Formidable Vegetable.

The event will be a free livestream. Register here for your free tickets and we’ll email you the viewing links on the day.

The first 100 books purchased at the launch will be signed by David, Beck and Brenna. In the meantime you can purchase the book from here and the cards from here.

NOTE: The event will be live-streamed on Facebook and YouTube. These links will be emailed to you closer to the date.

Get your tickets>>

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