The Little Permaculture Things – The Perchance Wood Chipper

So I’m coming home from this walk that I do with my neighbour in the morning. That’s another story

I’m trying to be quiet so I creep creep creep. Shoes off at the door, I slip gently as Gem sleeps. I slide into the kitchen, switch on the water for the tea..

Then I hear BRRR BRR BRRR out on the street

It frightens the life right out of me.

What’s all that whirring, I’m up off my feet. My heart is skipping to the beat. As I climb on the back of the seat to throw open the curtain to have a look-see.

Hell YES. I do a massive Cheshire Grin. Today is just beginning and I’ve already got a win. Don’t worry, Emmy, you didn’t miss the bins…

I’m straight up, shoes on, get the buckets from outside and head over the road.

A chipper, mate. I am CHIPPER mate.

So, the sound I was hearing was this industrial-sized wood chipper and it’s cutting down trees from a neighbour’s garden. I’m a bit apprehensive because I’m not really sure if they’re allowed to give away the chips of trees.

To me, I’m looking at a treasure mine of mulch. Naturally-grown trees, straight from the street I live in, all chipped up and ready to spread on my beds. Mostly carbon with some dicey bits of nitrogen thrown in from what looks like yucca leaves.

Anyway, chance me arm, as they say.

I go over, bits are just flying everywhere. He’s got all the gear on. High-vis bloody everything from coast and tails to a nice shiny helmet. Nobody can miss him. But he’s got those plastic goggles and it’s spitting rain so he’s having trouble seeing stuff and he’s got ear defenders on because it’s so brain-jarringly deafening.

So I approach through the tornado of leaves and thunderous engines and he sees me last minute and has to turn everything off. I feel bad now, like maybe I’ve wasted all his time for two measly buckets-worth. Maybe he’ll be like, ‘Nope, boss don’t let me because of insurance and law suits and this, that, and the other nonsense red-tape barrier’.

Anyway, long story short, I put my anxiety aside and ask anyway. He’s glad to give me some. Happy about it, even. He’s chatting to me about how he puts it on his allotment, I’m telling him about how to use it to make some compost-type teas. He’s giving me good ratios to spread it.

What’s the takeaway from this? Get out in the community and ask! You’ll find people are willing to help you out after a little face-to-face conversation and a little chuckle.

I ran out after and gave him a cheeky beer. Hopefully the weather clears up and he can enjoy it in his allotment later!

If you liked my articles on regenerative businesses and would more, sign up to my FREE fortnightly newsletter. Tips, tools, and resources on creating eco-businesses using regenerative permaculture principles, that I’m personally finding helpful each week.

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Until the next odd permaculture thing happens in my community – ciao! x

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Permie Entrepreneurs Are Go #5

Welcome back to another week jammed packed with actionable resources for permie entrepreneurs, ecopreneurs and regenerative businesses!

This week we’re diving into understanding not only the world around us, but how we fit into it and work with it – rather than against it. This includes unpacking how to take inspiration from our surroundings to feel more ourselves, how to look for patterns to mimic for our own success, and how to work with produce to build a viable enterprise.

Without further ado, let’s explore how self care, entrepreneurial strategy, and permaculture can help to build your viable regenerative enterprises!


Self Care

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Reading Your Body, Reading the Land by Adam Haritan (Good Life Revival)

Creator of Learn Your Land, Adam Haritan talks extensively about how healing your body and healing the land are one and the same. Drawing from his own experiences of feeling unhealthy and unmotivated, Adam speaks about how making a connection with the land around him has helped him to feel more at home and more at peace with himself. Following his career in a metal band, Adam studied nutritional science.

Despite his efforts to improve his own health. Adam found limits to conventional science, finding time in nature and self-learning provided him a more fulfilling route to holistic healing. Learning both mushroom and plant identification simultaneously, Adam has found solace in connecting with kindred spirits and in connecting to the larger landscapes around him.

Lessons from Adam Haritan

  1. Find the diet that’s best for you – While Adam has tried out vegan diets and been proffered a series of miracle eating habits, he found that through self-learning and eating natively to his community, he feels distinctly more healthy and happier. While he supports learning from academia and listening to others opinions, ultimately everyone is different and you need to find what works for you to eat a sustainably healthy diet.
  2. Knowing plants makes you feel at home – When we start to learn about the nature around us, we’re not only able to forage for a much healthier diet, we can also connect with the land we’re on – rather than just being a tourist. For Adam, he says this connection brings him a much better sense of home that he craved so desperately when he was younger.
  3. You can’t learn alone – While self-learning is very valuable, we need to recognise that even the books and literature we draw from was contributed by others. Go out and find like-minded people, clubs to join, meetups to attend. You’ll learn so much from others who are so desperate to share.
  4. Develop a strong enough ‘why’ – In order to truly stick with your goals in a sustainable way, there has to be a strong enough purpose as to why you do what you do. When you find that passion, you find the fuel to drive it to become something bigger than yourself.

Adam offers a great course on foraging mushrooms, which you can sign up to here –

Foraging Wild Mushrooms


Entrepreneurial Strategy

Blueprint for Success by Tony Robbins (Entrepreneurs on Fire)

Tony Robbins doesn’t really need an introduction – or he shouldn’t – but in case you don’t know, he’s possibly the most successful business growth developer and motivator in the world today, as well as being a kick-ass entrepreneur in his own right. Aside from building billion-dollar companies and writing business bestsellers, Robbins also does a great amount of philanthropy, helping to free women from trafficking and providing a billion free meals to the needy over 10 years.  

In this podcast, he gives a blueprint to his success, breaking down why and how traditional education fails us, and how to become a self-learner that propels oneself TOWARD  your vision. This talk brings incredible insights into how he came to succeed and the ethos you should have driving your attitude.

Lessons from Tony Robbins

  1. Leaders are readers – Self-education is everything. Those who can self-learn are able to use the wealth of resources around them to solve any problems they come across. If you’re not learning, you’re stagnant.
  2. Find the patterns – Patterns are everything – as we know from permaculture. Find the patterns to why people failure, and avoid them. Find the patterns to why people are succeeding, and copy them. Objectively analyse the patterns in your own life and define better ones that model behaviour you want, and break the patterns that don’t.
  3. Leaders anticipate, losers react – Don’t wait for things to happen to you and then try to manage the crisis. Look at the potential outcomes, using every experience as a learning curve. In this respect, we can predict the outcomes of certain events, in order to better prepare ourselves or steer the ship in the most prosperous direction.
  4. Fear is paralysing – If you’re frightened of what might happen, you’ll never do anything. Everyone will fail – it is inevitable when you’re trying to find your way. The fear of failure will keep you from putting a foot forward. Only through striking out will you gain experience – whether it be experience of mistake not to repeat, or experience of success to pattern.
  5. You need a higher purpose – Human don’t need much to be happy on an individual level. What do you really need? A good beer and good meal and a dime in your pocket? In order to keep driving your regenerative business, you need to have a higher goal as to why you’re doing it – it has to be something that will drive change on a level bigger than you.

Tony’s newest book of excellent advice on entrepreneurial acceleration can be found here:

Unshakeable: Your Financial Freedom Playbook


Permaculture

Growing Tomatoes for Profit by Conor Crickmore (Permaculture Voices)

Conor Crickmore is an educator and expert in small scale farming. Pioneer of Neversink Farm, Conor prides himself on large and small scale changes made on his farm that contribute to a fractal system that works both on as a whole and as systemic arms within it. Along with his wife, he’s grossing $350,000 a year with his farm, while also producing a myriad of excellent courses to teach future small-scale farmers.

This podcast delves into the specifics of growing tomatoes for profit – both practically and economically. For those of us who have tried to grow veggies, particularly tomatoes, for profit – you will have encountered hurdles and questions regarding species selection, marketing, grafting/seed, and diseases. Conor dives right in there, uncovering all his secrets of how he not only grows tomatoes successfully, but turns a profit through his entrepreneurial skill.

Lessons from Conor Crickmore

  1. Grow out of season – It’s pretty easy to extend seasons and to grow tomatoes when the market is being flooded by big producers. This is the best time to make profit and increase your customer base as you won’t experience so much competition.
  2. Limit variety – While tomatoes come in all shapes and sizes, with multicoloured heirlooms catching our fancy, often customers will get choice blindness if offered too many options. Conor reduces his selection to 3 colours of heirlooms, a couple of cherry varieties and a beef steak. This encourages easier choice while also reducing workload when growing as there are fewer plant specifications to work to.
  3. Think about marketing first – Considering the tomatoes you grow, your target audience, what sells best, how you’ll present them at market, and how they’ll be packaged will help you to sell better. This will help in the picking and packing process, as well as working out how to upsell with other veggies on the day.
  4. Don’t throw too much risk in your system – Conor doesn’t actually make his own potting soil as he prefers to be sure of the exact mix he is getting. Equally, he grafts all his tomatoes for longer seasons and resistance to root disease. These observations and changes to his system means he’s reducing risk.

If you’re interested in learning more from Conor, check out his highly-acclaimed online courses here:

Neversink Courses


Permie Emmy’s Weekly Wild Card

This week’s wild card is an oldy but a goody. Extremely poigniant in regards to Extinction Rebellion, who are fighting to show our unsustainable system for what it is. 

What is it you ask? Well here’s a great insight.

The Story of Stuff

This is a concisely explained and well-illustrated description of the linear system operating in our world and how that linear system is destroying the planet we live on. Confined by consumerism, we’re extracting resources, polluting through production, using up through consumerism, and polluting again with waste.

Not only is this completely unsustainable, mathematically it doesn’t work out well for us in the end. Both the people and the planet embroiled in this man-made system are being harmed and are threatened with extinction. The crux is that, as we created this particular fairground ride, we can also create a better one that’s regenerative, that puts back the resources we use by conscious consideration or regeneration.

Lessons from the Story of Stuff

  1. One third of natural resources have been depleted in the last 3 decades – When we consider this (I think now it’s about 50% in 4 decades), we realise how little time we have left before we deplete everything that sustains us; especially when we consider that consumption is rising and so is the population.
  2. If you don’t buy or own stuff, you don’t have value – The system is created to force people to buy and own all kinds of things they don’t need, replacing them at a rapid rate to keep that system growing. Those who don’t buy into the system have a very small voice and are inevitably buried by those that perpetuate it.
  3. The system externalises true costs – The real costs of extraction, production, exploitation, and pollution aren’t captured in the reporting of the system. With many factories and production processes moved to developing countries, indigenous land and economies are eroded, leaving the most vulnerable people to be forced to work in unhealthy environments – further reducing their prosperity.
  4. The system was DESIGNED After WW2, Victor LeBow, a retail analyst, (among others) designed this very system encouraging consumerism as a way of life to feed the economy by influencing the people to burn up and replace resources to force expansion. If it was designed so recently, it can be redesigned again.
  5. Our waste methods produce the world’s most toxic man-made chemical – Dioxin is mostly produced from burning waste in incinerators. If we know this is the world’s most toxic chemical, why work with a system that allows its production at unprecedented and ever growing rates? It makes no sense. Regenerative businesses must seek to reduce waste and bypass this system with new methods of reinvesting waste back into the system – there’s no such thing as waste, just things in the wrong place.

You can check out more of what The Story of Stuff Project are doing by heading to their website.


I hope this week has been another inspiring catalogue to help boost your entrepreneurial journey and encourage ecopreneurship both in your head and in your hands.

Permie Emmy x

If you’d like to donate toward getting my entrepreneurial journey on the road to building a regenerative business incubator permaculture site, please donate here:

I’d Like To Help!

If you’d like to find out more about what I’m aiming to do with the money, you can read my blog about my plans for a regenerative business incubator.

7 Newsletters Permaculture & Regenerative Entrepreneurs Should Read

As we shift gears to try to bypass antiquated and consumptive systems in favour of regenerative business practices, we need to understand how to restructure our own startups and enterprises.

Tempting as it is to green-wash our ventures, devising new systems of operating that work with nature rather than against it are integral.

This means delving into regenerative production and utilisation of resources to cycle energy, while also adhering to empowering employment practices and fairshare systems of revenue.

To aid in your enterprise design, I’ve compiled a list of 10 prominent newsletters that tackle all aspects of ecopreneurship upfront.

If you’re not having these sent your inbox each day/week/month, get subscribing now. You’ll find tools for practical development as well as resources for keeping up to date with trends in the sector that you can learn from and leverage in your own endeavours.


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What It Is: This newsletter looks at the intersection of planet, people, and profit, addressing the latest trends in sustainable and regenerative business practices. Focusing on business being a vehicle to drive change in a positive direction, Triple Pundit zooms in on company profiles to showcase what they’re doing to move in new directions, while also offering important guides to assist readers in implementing innovative business practices.

Why You Should Read It: Crossing over the 3 permaculture ethics, this newsletter delves into global issues and enables you to understand where you can fit into global business trends, as well as providing strategies you can employ.

www.triplepundit.com


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What It Is: Written by Gareth Kane, one of the UK’s most prolific sustainability and CSR practitioners, this newsletter has a more subjective twist while exploring concepts of waste, sustainability strategies, and regenerative people management. This newsletter combines opinion pieces that deal with the current climate issues, as well as actionable advice on how to implement regenerative practices in your own companies.

Why You Should Read It: Kane works on the front line of business sustainability and has a great deal of experience in turning companies around to employ better practices. He has insightful commentaries into what’s happening in the green arena and opens conversations that aren’t necessarily being had, when they very much need to be.

www.terrainfirma.co.uk


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What It Is: This blog gives regular updates on procedural changes in various industry sectors that are leading toward more green and eco-friendly practices. Equally, they provide insightful content on how you can shift your own processes, switching out unsustainable practices, and restructuring your operations to incorporate more regenerative methods of working. From marketing tips for green businesses to tax changes to packaging alternatives, this newsletter is a great resource for permaculture startups and small eco businesses.

Why You Should Read It: Rather than just offering generic ideas on how to improve, this newsletter identifies exact brands, companies, suppliers and so on that you should be using to shift your footprint. Additionally, you’ll find expert interviews that speak directly with real-world entrepreneurs to talk about how they’ve made changes, the impact of them, and how you can do the same.

www.greenbusinessbureau.com


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What It Is: Eco-Office Gals, written by Jennifer, is an attempt to help businesses re-orientate themselves toward eco-friendly practices. A guide to taking steps to cut out non-regenerative practices, this is very much a hands-on directive aimed at both environmentally-friendly activities and entrepreneurial skills. With blogs covering topics such as kitting out an eco-friendly restaurant kitchen, how to build a website, green marketing techniques, and creating an outdoor office space, this blog is a refreshing directive for all industry sector start-ups.

Why You Should Read It: Often permaculture start-ups have the practical skills to make products, run a farm, process produce and so on, but lack the entrepreneurial know-how to market and promote products and services effectively. This newsletter has excellent actionable tips to get you going, especially if you’re budget and time poor!

www.eco-officegals.com


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What It Is: See Change is a magazine the focuses on social entrepreneurship. It tackles issues social and community issues in businesses, from discrimination to community development to education and inclusion. You’ll find great use cases, project explorations, and interviews that provide reviews of what businesses and communities are doing around the world to promote social cohesion and tackle climate issues together. It also provides guides on how to implement certain social inclusion practices in your own business.

Why You Should Read It: Understanding people management and community outreach as an ecopreneur is integral. This blog will help you to identify areas of improvement within your own enterprise to improve communication, conditions and relationships, and leverage community connections to bring green practices to your own neighbourhoods and audiences.

www.seechangemagazine.com


Green Business

What Is It: This is a newsletter aimed at eco startups and green small businesses, providing guidance on how to implement eco-friendly practices from the start. It combines information on tools that businesses can use to get started and encourage growth, as well as practical sustainable ways to improve procedures, focus pieces on companies employing green practices, and green product reviews. The blog provides regular hands-on advice such as which printer you should be using, environmentally-friendly business events to attend, and designing a green office.

Why You Should Read It: This is a really diverse blog that traverses a number of topics and delves deep into companies that are succeeding in providing these answers. Equally, if you’re a small business owner, you’ll find easy tips to follow, as well as simple-to-grasp language and accessible products to use.

www.futureofbusiness.info


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What Is It: Green Biz has a couple of newsletters to follow: Green Buzz and Verge. Green Buzz keeps you up to date with what’s happening in the global sphere on sustainability and green practices in business. The insightful articles are focused on breaking open topics to incite conversation around current news and trends. It also features interviews with prolific influencers in the field, as well as problem-solving ideas to tackle bigger picture issues. Verge focuses on technology that will accelerate the green revolution. This is a great help for permaculture businesses who’d like to improve efficiency with tech, as well as understanding how technology is infiltrating the eco sectors to change business practices.

Why You Should Read It: With a great remit of writers on board, the blogs are insightful and engaging, without being afraid to tackle controversial topics. The experts featured give an insider look into what’s happening in the global forum, while enabling you to understand where your venture can fit in with current trends, while keeping up to date with jargon and groupthink!

www.greenbiz.com

Bangkok’s Green Pockets – The Wild Wee Woods in the Giant Metal Jungle

Now, it’s no secret that the pollution in Bangkok is unreal. Some days it’s so hazy that you can’t see the horizon and it makes you sit back and wonder if you’re experiencing the end of the world. Some days, when it rains it drowns the pavement and you end up with an oil slick ice rink that makes you slip and slide all over the show, as the rain brings the pollution to floor level. Some days it’s so bad that working out is more of a hazard than a health boost.

Despite this though, nestled in the new city of glitzy robot tower blocks and buzzing automobiles and flying trains, you’ll find that Bangkok is dotted with mini jungles.

IMG_0459.JPGWhen I look out my apartment window, yes I do see skyscaping metal boxes and thick tar rivers of screaming traffic, but I also see these nuggets of nature, blissfully working as their own spheres of serenity and productiveness. Luckily, there are certain rules in Thailand that mean you can’t build too close to temples, which helps to maintain these little pockets of paradise. Unlike the manmade falseness of picture-perfect parks – man’s ironic attempting at recreating what he tore down – these bundles of bushes are cacophonies of natural occurrences.

IMG_0465.JPGIn these parts you’ll see the natural patterns of the jungle springing up, with the multiple forest layers pushing through to beat that race with concrete. Often positioned, not strangely, next to poorer neighbourhoods, you’ll find that these gashes of green are abundant with edible plants and forest foods. These small jungles are teeming with life and in that, provide life. From the butterfly peas to the morning glory vines, from the banana and mango trees to the wild basil and turmeric and ginger, from the tamarinds to the yucca, you will find these miniature microcosms mimic the larger forest of which they were once part. And you will find their inhabitants live very similarly too, despite the urban sprawl and prevailing poverty that is being thrust upon them.

IMG_0462.JPGFor the likes of me and the other dusty computer kids of this choking city, we probably owe our lives to these little islands of oxygen. They drink in the smog and spit out a treat for us to guzzle, barely noticing of its giver. While the pollution is bad here, hell it will get worse when they start cutting back those clusters to create curls of creeping windows that reach the sky for more commuters to rest their anxious heads after a long, hard days typing on the box inside a box. When will we learn?

I guess right now, all we can do is thank that the sacredness of these places helps to keep the demolition team at bay. For now.

 

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Emancipation Economics – Social Permaculture & Cryptocurrency

I’ve been knees deep in the permaculture world (officially) for just over a year and I want ya’ll to realise where a year of permaculture can lead you. I went from digging out drains to speaking on stages so quick my head’s spinning like a yo-yo in the early 90s.

Social permaculture is still new and no disrespect to the fore-people that lead the way (honour and love to Starhawk, Looby McNamara, and Adam Brock in particular), but we’re still working on the vague, missing out some of the finer and somehow monumental concepts. Let’s take the economics.

I know, right, thrilling. You’re probably gripping your seat, thinking, I can’t wait to learn more. Please unwrap this candy of delight she is about to discuss. Give me that sweet sugar of maths and logic rolled into one like a statistical ball of all-consuming fun.

Oi. Don’t knock it, right. I want to take you on a journey of whole systems thinking in a direction none of us conceived. Standing in the awe of my PDC teacher talking about tree types, I never thought I’d be about to indulge you with the transition economics and real world whole systems thinking of incredible cryptocurrencies.

BURN THE WITCH, I hear you cry. Don’t be scared. I promise I’ll be gentle. But I really think it’s time we talked about this.

We can pretend that a market garden is going to give us a self-sustaining future where we can survive on selling our products at the market. We talk about cottage industry like selling tinctures is gonna send our kids to college. It isn’t, and here’s why, you bunch of self-indulging capitalists. While the system that leads to making those products may be regenerative, the economics you employ to market them are not. Oh you think they are, I thought they were. Don’t worry, this ain’t no high horse situation. I’m not buying a ladder to get on my trusty steed.

It’s this simple. I recently took a job in analyzing cryptocurrencies. As a hardened anti-technologist, this was my version of reading the Bible to use educated arguments to slam homophobic Christians. I partly took this job to prove the idiocy of cryptocurrency.

But I was wrong. 180 flip on my view. You wanna see real anarchist economics in action with whole systems design? This is where you should be looking.

Rather than talk to you about the ins and outs of cryptocurrency, I’d rather give you an example. We all know that’s far easier to swallow.

The cryptocurrency I will be explaining is called Tutellus. It works with a whole systems design that brings in students, teachers, and businesses to benefit each of them. So first, I want to outline the problem.

HERE’S WHAT SUCKS

Students: As students we get ourselves in debt by having to pay through the nose for education. What’s worse is that most degrees are a vague attempt at teaching us subjects that are pretty much irrelevant to today’s world. Now I’m not shitting on philosophers, but how much have you used that degree. As a graduate of criminology, I can tell you out right that I’m not Inspector Gadgeting much in my life.

Teachers: You can teach the hell out of your students or not at all and you’re getting the same wage. Nobody cares about whether a student is really learning real world stuff anymore, they care whether your data is up to date and whether your data is datery enough for them. I see this very dichotomy in my sister who talks wonders about what her children have learned each week, while sacrificing her own social life to stay up all night punching numbers into spreadsheets.
Businesses: Oh there’s a bunch of people applying, but none of them have real world skills or even the specifics to handle the job you’re looking for.

WHATEVER CAN WE DO ABOUT THIS?

Here’s what we can do. We can pull our problems and assets together and stop acting like we’re all individuals wandering around the chicken coop looking for the handful of grain we hope our masters will give us.

Just as a sidenote, this is hard to explain. As with all full cycle solutions, it’s hard to work out where to jump on the circle.

So we’ll start by chasing the money.

So you’re a business and you want to employ a candidate that’s going to fulfil your role completely, be qualified to jump on the job imminently and be up to date with all the advances in the field. Problem is that many degrees are still working with texts from the 1980s and lecturers who are so up their own egos that they don’t want to talk about Anonymous because they’re busy telling you the worthiness of Freud’s handful of generalized experiments.
But you’re willing to pay for recruitment so you hand your money to an ‘expert’ recruiter hoping they’ll find you a gem in a desert of sand. Let’s bypass that pony show shall we?

So as a business you put your money into the pool. This gives you access to the best students, performing the highest in the general field you’re looking. Yes, you’re going to pay more depending on the market rate of the job you’re looking for but if you want the best, you gotta pay for the best. So you plunge a sum of money in and you get a portfolio of students who fit the bill. Thing is they’re not at the end of their learning. They could be at the beginning. What brings them to your attention is this score that they’ve earned. They earn that score not only through being a smart arse, but also being a hardcore participator in their own learning. You know that those students are going to bring that hardworking attitude to your doorstep. This allows you to communicate with them, encourage them to angle their learning in a certain way. In fact, you can offer them scholarships so that they start to tailor their learning to exactly what you need.

It’s an investment, right? By the end you get a student that is so adept in what you need, that you don’t need to waste thousands of dollars training them with half-arsed corporate training, because they’re ALREADY THERE.

So then we have the students. You’re working working working, unsure if it’s leading to anything. On top of that you’re spending spending spending with blind faith that it’s going to come out with something. If we were in a casino, we’d call that gambling, my friend. Laying down money in the blind hope of return. I mean tell me I’m wrong but if I were, we wouldn’t have the student debt crisis we have, right?

So imagine you knew that your hard work was being rewarded. You pay for a course but you can make ALL that money back if you work your darndest. Not only do you do well in your exams, but you participate to improve the community, because only with an improved community will you get improved services. So you review your teachers, you participate in debate, you answer other students’ question right and so on and so forth. You engage.

This builds the score that employers see while also getting you financial rewards from the system. But where do these rewards come from? Well when businesses put their money in, that money gets distributed out to those students who are killing it. Then you get noticed. Then you get more rewards and you get sponsorship, then before you know it, your education is not only free, but you’re getting real world enterprise mentorship that guides you into working out what you need to learn to get a real world job. Hint. It isn’t an age-old degree based on yesteryears’ philosophy.

So that leaves your teachers. The people who educate the next generation, stuck on wage fit for a weekend server at a local restaurant. This is disgusting and disrespectful to our whole culture and development as a human species. Bound by curriculums that are defined by data and endorsed by governments who have, of course, no other agenda but the kids’ best interests at heart, teachers are confined to providing one-size-fits all education that neither benefits each individuals’ creativity and flair, or the teacher’s own capacity to demonstrate innovation.

In this sense, with this new system, teachers are rewarded. The money paid into the pool by businesses rewards teachers who get students to the top spots. How do those students get there? By tailored education. Teachers producing the most dynamic and relevant courses with the greatest conversions of learning are being rewarded by the businesses. Not only that, they’re rewarded when kids sign on to their courses, not just when they do well. So if you’re providing courses that are poignant and intriguing, you’re getting what you deserve.

So to sum up, kids learn a relevant and useful education for free while becoming hard-working, self-driven individuals. Teachers are motivated to be the best educators they can be, receiving the accreditation they deserve for that. And businesses get the best and most relevant candidates for the job, that need little training and are self-driven, without paying more than they’d pay to a recruiter. Damn that makes sense, don’t it?

But why blockchain?

Here’s why. Humans are arseholes. All of our resumes show better humans than we are. All teachers give less than 100% because they don’t need to. All businesses promise things they can’t deliver. No we don’t, you plead in defiance. You do. Why? Because you can.

Blockchain is a trustless immutable ledger that can’t be ignored, can’t be changed, and can’t be denied. When you have that, you can really see who truly shines. Without doubt, without reservation. And that kind of guarantee, makes people work harder, better, smarter, and with more guile.
We create the currency so the money stays in the system. With that currency, we can then spend it inside the participating businesses so eventually they make their money back. It’s basically barter, except there’s an immutable trail of accountability.

You can choose to walk away from this kind of oncoming technology, hoping patterning plants will save you. Or you can realise it’s all important. Top to bottom, inside and out, fractals in hand, this is how our economics should work. As permaculturalists, it’s our responsibility to be at the pinnacle. We’ve been pushing local currencies and transition economics for years. Now you have it. You going to embrace it, are you just sit there gawping with your head in flowers?

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When 2 Worlds Meet – The Ecotones of Bringing Together Local and Global Knowledge

As I said in previous posts, I spent a little time on Ometepe in Nicaragua. This post is about my time spent with the local gardeners.

The hostel I was working at, Little Morgan’s Hostel is run by a guy called Morgan (the father of Little Morgan). Morgan is the kind of man that continuously makes you raise your eyebrows in heartfelt surprise at the many tricks of knowledge he has up his sleeve. On the face of it, his hostel appears as a drinking haunt for half-arsed backpackers trawling the same trail as all the other fish in the sea. But when you look slightly closer at the inner sense of community within his circles, you see a glorious mix of locals and internationals intermingling to get all the jobs done and Morgan flitting between them all with equal understanding, appreciation, and eagerness for each.

When I first suggested to him that I come down and build a garden for his restaurant, I was aware that his whole site was a menagerie of tropical trees and flowers planted himself. However, when I first visited a year ago, I wasn’t looking through permaculture lenses so in reality the true depth of the intricacies of his plantings had never occurred to me. No doubt it doesn’t occur at all to the backpackers who travel through there, distracted by the excitement of their short breaks from regular life, juiced up on alcohol and adrenaline from all the wonderful places they’ve swooped through. It’s not fair to say people don’t notice the beauty, but they don’t necessarily notice the multifunctionality of the beautiful site; me included.

DSC04030.JPGHowever, this time around I was entering with a new perspective and a different purpose. This enabled me to pop on my observation googles to notice what was hiding among the jungle chaos of the place. I was headed to build a garden on a spot which had previously been used for growing, but had become overgrown. Before I even got to the garden, I noticed that the bar itself is surrounded by a plethora of fruit trees and various other edibles. Mangoes, pineapples, squashes, coconuts, bananas, and plantains are casually hanging around dripping with goodies, and that’s just from a quick glance. And you can’t miss the animals mingling in and churning that soil while grabbing belly rubs from the patrons.

DSC04642.JPGThe thing is that the intricate density of all the green that splurges across this climate and landscape is difficult to comprehend. You need to have a helping hand. Often in permaculture we can be a little…let’s say…know-it-all. The principles set out by Bill Mollison and David Holgrem have served as a fantastic manual for working; the issue is that often we butt heads with local people when we come in with our white people club of new age farmers and tell them how they should be doing it. I’m not doubting the validity and excellence of permaculture and regenerative agricultural methods, but nobody knows the land better than the people who have had their hands in it every day of their lives.

I’ll be honest, when Morgan introduced me to the garden guys, I was intimidated. These guys have done this every day in the blistering heat, wearing jeans and knocking back whisky while they get the job done. Not only that, they built the myriad of phenomenal structures from the very garden they grew.

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Source:volanthevistI couldn’t see them really taking my ideas, physical self, or vision seriously. While we want to think that our brand of feminism is the way forward, there’s no escaping the fact that traditionally, women do not work in the fields here. I was prepared for them to reject my capabilities. I was wrong.

They welcomed me into their team with open arms and spent a great deal of their precious time working with me to teach me some of the intricacies of the land and some of their knacks. But it didn’t stop there.

To begin with, it was a very macho experience; them trying to take the hard labour out of my hands, somehow humouring me with my little gardening fancies. But before long and as my Spanish developed, it became an exchange of friends and it ignited an interest in all of us.

It first started with the oldest guy in the crew, Chefan. Chefan tried to put an insect repellant on the soil and I nearly exploded with desperation. I didn’t want to insult him but I wanted to grow organically and I wanted to test the methods I’d be taught. I politely and in the most restrained way I could, asked him not to. I will never forget the look he gave me. The pause of a man who had lived many lives while never having left that island. The pause of a man who’d seen a million faces shit all over his culture and suddenly see one who wanted more than cheap plastic and throwaway touism. He cracked this smile so wide that I could have fit a boat in his mouth. He gestured for me to come with him and pointed to a neem tree, handing me the longest machete I’d ever seen and signalling that he’d give me a boost. When an indigenous Ometepian pulls you into their fold and tells you to climb that tree, guess what you’re doing. Up the tree I went and retrieved some neem. He put the neem, some garlic, and some of the local brain-blowing chilies in a bucket and we left it over night. We sprayed this all over the ground and plants and I had no bugs (for a while, this is the tropics, not Never Never Land!). He later laughed about how his Grandfather taught him this but he’d never used it and was amazed it had worked.

It only escalated from there. Chefan came to one night with the head builder, Luiz, and they said to me: ‘I see the fire in your eyes’. And we talked. Over whisky and tears we spilled our hearts. Luiz explained to me about how Chefan and himself bring young boys to come and work at the hostel to teach them about empowerment. No doubt you have seen the raucous of politics happening in Nicaragua right now; this was at the backbone of everything they were teaching. They taught these young boys to plant the seeds, grow the trees, design the building, choose the right branch, and build from it. They taught them to utilise what nature gives them, not to control it or break it or bend it to one’s will, but to work with it and create from it. They taught them to be empowered by the land, not to try and take power over it. They taught them that they didn’t need an oppressive regime if they could take care of everything themselves and until they could, they had no business fighting that regime (that’s a story for another time).

From here on in, these two older men had the younger men work with me. They explained that of they taught me the hands on sneaky tricks, I would teach them the science. I taught them to rebuild the terraces along contour to preserve water.

DSC04608 (1).JPGThey taught me to grow yard beans along the fences to keep weeds out, I taught them to stake yucca as the fence. They taught me to pierce pigs noses to stop them rooting, I taught them to use the pigs to root the pesky bindweed first. They cut down the overgrowth while I made them hot sauce from the local chilies. They taught me to plant my nursery in a bed of ashes, I taught them to create guilds to protect the tomatoes from fungus. They taught me the native plants and I taught them the names in English.

DSC04615.JPGOne day, when I was suffering from conjunctivitis and everyone was throwing back antibiotic drops, they made me an eye wash from witchhazel.

I taught them to look for the signs of pests and adjust the carbon to nitrogen. They taught me that the jungle will do what it will, and to eat what grew and enjoy it.

I spent many a night discussing philosophy and corporations with them. I will never forget the tears in Larry’s eyes when he was sure he was crazy, trying desperately to explain his own personal observations of how pesticides seem to affect the land and how nobody seemed to believe him. He’d never left the island, he doesn’t have the internet, he knows nothing about the worldwide anger raging about the use of these products; he just knew what he saw and drew his own conclusions. The wholehearted embrace that he gave me when I explained about Monsanto was like I’d put his mind at peace.

It wasn’t just knowledge they gave me. They gave me their hearts, their community. They had their wives teach me Spanish and how to cook. They shared stories and introduced me to their families.

Between us we grew a garden that managed to create some of the most delicious recipes I’d ever tasted, making that restaurant a bit more sustainable. Between us we managed to teach and learn and create. I thank them so deeply for those lessons and to me it’s proof that social diversity creates resilience, it creates strength. Because alone neither of us had the answers, but together, we killed it.

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Got a Cob On – Building a Natural Kitchen

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Morgan’s Gift for Cob Building

I was presented with an exciting opportunity this week. I got talking to Morgan, who up until now, has built all of his structures with wood and bamboo grown on the property. However, we’ve been discussing expanding the menu and offering more roasted dishes along with pizzas with homegrown ingredients.

He suggested that it would be a nice project for me to build a cob oven with the garden guys. This is brilliant for my permie learning journey as I wanted to expand into toying with natural building next, so it gives me the perfect opportunity to try my hand at a new skill, while also giving me another design to add to my portfolio.

The day after we discussed this, he threw a book at me called ‘The Hand-Sculpted House’. It’s a guide to working with cob and although I read some things here and there, this is one of the most comprehensive guides I’ve ever read. Not only does it discuss the physical methods of completing it, it also talks about the psychological improvements to one’s life with cob design, as well as the philosophical underpinning and historical background. It’s a great read for anyone looking at diversifying into cob building.

So hold on to your seats as you start to see that project develop over the next couple of weeks.

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The Mystery of the Wilting Tomatoes

This week there was a little bit of an issue. A whole row of my tomatoes started to die and I really couldn’t work out why.

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Wilting tomatoes from unwanted guests

I have spent the last week or so trellising everything to give the tomatoes support for the next period where they start to really burst outward and upward. Equally, I have been spreading charcoal on the beds as well.

My first reaction was that one of these two actions had caused the tomatoes to wilt. However, like with all systems, we need to look for the feedback loops, and while this may have caused some disruption through root tear or chemical imbalances, it still led to the question of why only one row was affected.

I was completely stumped, so I went to my team. One of the great things, as I’ve mentioned before, with working with local guys, is that they know their land and they tend to know any problems that are occurring. While I don’t know the name of the specific issue, having observed the plants with me, they showed me how the plant was turning brown from the root upward, demonstrating that the issue is within the soil. With our mix of broken Spanglish, they managed to get across to me that it is some form of parasitic fungus which attacks the roots. It’s common here, especially when planting non-native species such as this.

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Bug Eaten Non-Native Beans

My response to this was two-fold. On the first hand, I made a neem, chilli and garlic insecticide. The ingredients are left to steep in water for a day or two and then sprayed on the plants. This will help to keep that parasitic fungus back in the same way that it keeps insects back.

Natural_Insecticide
Natural Insecticide

Secondly, with a more long-term look, I tried to consider how to keep this issue from returning. Fungus tends to indicate high levels of carbon, and the rice husks on the bed are adding carbon to the soil. Where I am planting nitrogen-fixing cover crops in this area, they haven’t spread very far yet, meaning the likelihood is that the rice husks are unbalancing the system somewhat with too much carbon. In response to this, I sprayed a home-made nitrogen fertilizer that I had previously been fermenting.

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Natural nitrogen fertiliser

For this, I walked around the property and pulled leaves and fruit from as many different leguminous plants as I could find. I placed them in a five gallon bucket, filled with water. I placed banana leaves on the surface to keep everything under the water (to stop it rotting) and I popped the lid on for two weeks to let it brew. Boy, did it stink when I opened that lid. Hopefully, however, it will help to give those plants a boost and keep that fungus back.

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5 Observations from my Tropical Garden

OK, so I have been working on this garden in Nicaragua for about a month now. It’s rainy season so it’s been a bit of a busy kafuffle trying to get everything ready before the big rains come. Due to this, there have been a great many changes to the garden very quickly. Here are a few things I’ve observed from working.

  1. Tropical rain is hard to deal with

When it comes to rainwater harvesting, the tropics have their own set of complications. While half the year it’s throwing rain out of the sky like a clown with a bucket, the other half is dry as a bone. While obviously we want harvest as much rainwater as we can in order to keep the plants satisfied in dry season, when that rain comes down in rainy season, it comes so thick and fast that the beds become saturated.

As some work had been done in one area before I came, I can actually compare the different methods used. The guys here had already transplanted tomato plants into terraces when I arrived, without preparing the soil. This means that when it rains, while the terraces help to halt the water, once the bed becomes full, it overflows and the soil starts the erode down the beds. However, I used sheet mulching with rice husks and weeds on the new beds I built. This not only suppresses the weeds, but it holds the water, absorbing it into the rice husks.

I have noticed a few things with this method. The soil isn’t eroding and the weeds are suppressed which means the seedlings seem to be sprouting up at record rate. With the tomatoes, you can see that some areas are more eroded than others, and in those eroded areas, the tomatoes are not growing so well or dying off; especially at the top of the bed.

I’m trying to combat this by laying rice husks down. It’s not impossible but it’s tedious to weave in and out of the plants. Rather than laying green mulch, I’m planting edible cover crops in between; some give nitrogen to the soil, some shade, some are simply weed suppressants, but all of them help to hold and harvest the water.

  1. The insects love anything non-native

When I first arrived here, I was fortunate enough to bump into Scott, one of the teachers at Rancho Mastatal. It was my first day here and his advice was invaluable. He told me that it’s hard to grow food here because the insects are ferocious. I was a little confused at first, because everyone has to eat, but then I realised he was referring to the kinds of vegetables we can easily grow in the UK.

I observed the garden to work out where the insects like to flock to and where they stay away. It became apparent very quickly that native plants were far more hardy to the attacks of the insects. I started to chat to the local guys to find out more about edible weeds and indigenous plants. They pointed me toward a wild bean, certain squashes, indian lettuce, wandering jew, cucaracha, katuk, chaya, and other such plants. I’ve been planting these in the garden and so far, they seem to be much more hardy. While the insects are slowly mauling the tomatoes, they tend to steer clear from these more native species.

The shows that part of permaculture is to think about how to adapt to your surroundings. While it’s great to have an iceberg lettuce for a solid BLT, using native edible leaves as lettuce is going to have a much higher success rate.

  1. The jungle will always try to take the land back

I’ve noticed that I need creative ways to keep the jungle back. Whether that’s using thick mulch or cover crops, it is important to suppress the weeds in order to intensively grow enough food. While I have of course worked in other gardens with weeds growing, the jungle is a different ballgame. If I weed a bed, leave the soil bare, and come back that evening, there will be weeds again.

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Right now I’m experimenting with all different ways. I’ve been planting lemongrass at the edges to use their dense root system to keep back weeds. I’ve also been planting squashes all around the patches, as their large leaves help to keep the weeds back using shade. Varying cover crops a will help me to work out which plants work best with with vegetables to keep the weeds back without affecting the growth of the veggies; the variety also increases the biodiversity.

  1. A decent plant nursery is essential

When I first got here, the garden guys were using plastic crates filled with soil as a plant nursery. There are a few issues with this that prevents seedling sprouting.

Firstly, the rain is so heavy that it leads to the box saturating and becoming swampy. There’s no places for it to drain. Equally, they used the same soil from the ground, without mixing in sand, making it difficult for things to root easily. Secondly, the boxes aren’t shaded and the blistering tropical sunshine leads to seedlings withering; they need some kind of shade.

This week I would like to try to create a plant nursery to start planting lettuce seedlings and peppers. I’m thinking of using plastic bottles as a means to harvest water and build it from bamboo, ensuring drainage, while also giving shade.

  1. Terracing creates a series of microenvironments

I’ve never worked so closely with terraces before and seeing them every day enables me to understand their power. With all gardens, different areas should be treated differently due to their ranging features; some areas have more shade, water, wind, light.

However, interestingly, by creating terraces, we have created several different areas to work with. The top of the terracing tends to get more flooded than the bottom, which doesn’t appear to make logical sense, but it does. This means that plants that like wet feet, tend to be doing better up there; such as lemongrass. With this observation, I planted yucca at the bottom (north). Planting it here was a conscious decision as its northern location means it won’t shade out the garden, but it is also quite drought hardy, so it would be fine with less water.

I have planted varying crops all over the place. As they grow or don’t, I will be able to see what does well together where and replicate this in similar areas. This planting and revision enables me to learn from what I’m dong and to re-evaluate the system to increase its productivity through pattern recognition. It’s frightfully interesting!