Back in May I worked on my Holistic Context and mentioned that I was about to officially sign up to make the Applied Diploma in Permaculture Design. And then I didn’t. Honestly, you can sometimes really want to do something, but the conditions aren’t fitting. Over the last months things have fallen into place, I decided to go with my first choice of tutor, and yesterday I finally made the formal administrative payment to Permaculture Association UK.
Primarily, I wasn’t 100% sure whether completing a diploma under the UK system was the right choice – I live in Austria which has its own diploma system and intend to move back to Australia. Interestingly, Australia currently has no national association led diploma, instead a TAFE competency-based diploma and several private institutes offering diploma accreditation 1. I did think long and hard about completing a diploma under the Austrian system, especially as documenting and communicating in German would have been a useful learning process. Generally though completing a diploma in German would have been counterproductive as in the longer term my primary teaching language will always be English.
So it was back again to deciding between the Australian approaches and that which is offered by the Permaculture UK. Australia’s TAFE diploma of permaculture is heavily focused on specific competencies rather than broader systems awareness and the social, educational, holistic and organisational topics which I know will make up a good half of my designs. Working with a private institution like Rowe Morrow’s Blue Mountain’s Permaculture Institute would also be possible, but be relatively unstructured.
All of this thought has been worth it though. I’m lucky enough to be in semi-regular contact with Rosemary Morrow so know that she’ll be an ongoing influence on my work. Additionally I’m going to draw on the TAFE competencies as inspiration and reference points to document my applied diploma with. This should give me the opportunity to get my applied diploma part-recognised within the Australian system and open up the pathway to teach under the TAFE accredited system too.
In the end I returned to the UK offering which is well documented, in ongoing review and with a very clear permaculture design process supporting the diploma system itself. I’m also really excited to be working in a system that is working to explore a broad range of permaculture such as KT Shepherd’s Designing Dying or Cathrine Løvetand’s Universal Tea designs.
About a decade ago when I first moved to Berlin I realised that I probably should have found a Masters degree to study rather than flippantly moving across the world without a plan. Instead I not only blogged but tweeted about the idea of somehow doing a DIY Masters degree. People followed and cheered me on, I had a #diymasters hashtag and to this day I still have people from those years ask “what happened to the DIY Masters?”
While I did learn a lot and completed a Graduate Certificate in Adult Teaching and Learning, I never did “finish my DIY degree”. Instead the experience brought me a degree of online notoriety, new friends, a couple of pretty awesome jobs, I was interviewed for books and spoke at festivals, met my future husband and developed a deeper understanding of the challenges and benefits of studying outside of “the system”.
Through this process I learned that I loved learning and education and the ways in which formal and informal modes could be blended in meaningful and accessible ways. I was discovering that learning how to remake a sweater found on the street or how to host a conversation online was just as important for me as learning about the academic research that supported good modes of assessment.
Representing that learning in a way that was meaningful was difficult. Initially I’d latched onto the idea of framing my studies within media art (it was Berlin in 2008). At the same time I was realising that work focused on technology was not my cup of tea. The jobs I’d been so lucky to end up in as a result of my project took over much of the time I had available to study. I was living in a new town and had no local support system. I wanted to learn everything it seemed, so had no core theme of study, lacked a set of peers or mentors working on similar topics, and was working blind without any example of what a DIY Masters would look like, let alone a core philosophical or methodological approach.
Previous learning pathway: MSc SA at Center for Alternative Technology
A few years ago, just a couple of weeks after I participated in my first permaculture design course (PDC), I finally started an actual Masters degree which was in many ways fantastic. Not only was I passionate about the topics of sustainability and climate change adaptation, I was also learning alongside a crew of like minded people and making visits to one of the most unusual and beautiful campus I know of.
At the same time I was stuck in a Science context with a particular set of expectations on how knowledge should be taught, learnt and represented. Our topics of study included discussions of how climate adaptation could totally transform society for the better. Yet while we were learning in a rammed earth building and had some really exciting practical learning, for the most part we were still sitting in rows looking at Powerpoint in order to write 2000 word essays that replicated the modes of an existing system. For me, it was all a little frustrating. Still, I made my way through the degree, redesigned one of their modules to include participatory futuring exercises and stressfully wrote and passed a masters thesis.
Again though, I learnt a lot even though in retrospect I’d do things differently. Such is life.
Current Learning Pathway: Applied Permaculture Diploma
Which brings me up to now, May 2018. I’m about to formally sign up for my Applied Permaculture Diploma within the British system. It feels like I am finally setting out to do an actual #diymasters project, but this time in the far more supportive arms of permaculture. Permaculture diplomas are a roughly structured, but self-organised learning journey which demonstrate how an individual is using permaculture design and practice in their life and work.
Technically the diploma process can begin immediately after one has completed a PDC, but in my case a related masters degree got in the way. Having reread through the diploma guidelines for about the 6th time it feels like the positive and negative experiences of the studying a formal masters can only make my diploma experience better.
As a preliminary exercise for my Learning Design (AKA Action Learning Plan, Design Learning Plan) I’ve started thinking in more details about my goals for the Diploma. As part of this I’ve written the first draft of a personal Holistic Context. This is a tool that comes from Holistic Management, the land, farm and life management system developed by Allan Savory. Preparing a Holistic Context includes identifying the whole being managed (a farm, organisation or in this case, an individual) , the decision makers, stakeholders and the supporting social, ecological, physical and economic resource bases. Once the whole is defined you then describe the desired quality of life you are working to achieve and the optimum state you want your resource bases to reach with your assistance and management.
Part of my lunar intention for this month was to start working on my personal Holistic Context. This is a key tool in my personal and professional life and a foundational aspect of my permaculture portfolio. Today seemed like the right time to work on this first written version, especially while the full moon is still strong, and Beltane and May 1st International Labour Day are celebrated. My hope is that all people can one day share this luxury of designing a right livelihood. I am also very grateful for @byronjoel3055 who brought holistic management to my attention. #luxusffueralle #luxuryforeverybody #rightlivelihood #permacultureathome #permacultureethics #holisticcontext #regenerativelivelihoods #regenerativeeducation #fullmoon #luminousspirittarot #changeherenow #socialpermaculture via Instagram https://ift.tt/2FxX7z5
Using Holistic Mangement techniques for goal setting, project framing and decision making is increasingly being recommended as a core stage of regenerative and permaculture design by people I respect like Byron Joel, Milkwood Permaculture, Dan Palmer and Darren Doherty. My partner and I use this as a way of framing our relationship and I am also using Holistic Management in my work with Fair Harvest Permaculture, an organisational design that will also be part of my diploma.
I love so many aspects of permaculture: the delicious food produced by permaculture gardeners, the sense of global and local community it fosters, the sustainable changes it has supported me to make in my life and the beauty in the nature it helps me see. At a more pragmatic level I also know that permaculture gives individuals, households and communities the tools, attitudes and skills we need to design abundant, inclusive and resilient futures.
This mix of sustainability and resilience is one of the delightfully simple, yet complex aspects of permaculture. A well-designed and managed permaculture system will be resource efficient, productive and may well sequester greenhouse gases, but it will also be a resilient system better able to deal with the inevitable effects of climate change such as natural disasters like floods or wildfire.
The potential for disasters happen when systems can not handle extremes or cumulative stress. One week of limited spending may be a challenge, but a medical bill on top of long-term debt and structural poverty may force a family into homelessness. Water is essential for life, but the extremes of either drought or flood-causing torrential rain can cause havoc in both natural and human systems.
Designing land, the built environment, lifestyles, livelihoods and organisations to deal with extremes as well as everyday conditions is essential for resilience. Resilience is the ability of a system to handle change. There are many ways in which permaculture design and practice supports resilience. In order for designers to design for resilience, they first need to understand what extremes are most likely to have an impact on a site. This is why careful observation and sector analysis is so important for a successful project.
Sector analysis is a critical tool for visually representing observations about identifying how a site may be affected by the “sectors” or the external forces and elements that move through or otherwise influence a project. The sectors recorded can be related to effects on the site caused by climate, ecology, geology, topography and society. For example sun paths, wind and rain patterns, invasive plants, wildlife, pollution, neighbours, areas of high fire threat, views and noise could all be recorded on a sector analysis map.
Sectors are often represented as labelled wedges, arcs or arrows representing the origin and direction of the element. However, rocky areas, contaminated soil, boggy land, or areas of flood risk are better represented as location specific patches over a base map. Some uncontrollable issues such as geological instability or limiting factors such as legal restrictions are harder to represent visually and are best recorded in writing.
In the Permaculture Women’s Guild Permaculture Design Course (PWGPDC) my colleague Jennifer English Morgan introduced the idea of Designer’s Mind. One aspect of developing Designer’s Mind is about making observations free of bias. The forces recorded on a sector analysis are neutral and can be both beneficial or harmful. For example knowing that dry summer winds come from the east of a site helps identify the best place to locate a laundry line or to hang produce for drying. At the same time that drying wind will quickly evaporate water from soil as well as dams or ponds. This information guides the placement of windbreak plantings or hedges on the eastern side to moderate the impact of the wind and reduce evaporation.
Used together with permaculture design tools such as zone analysis, sector analysis helps guide the placement of components so that they make best use of, or mitigate the risks of that sector. Sector analysis influences which zones are placed where, but at the same time, zones influence the strategies used to respond to external forces. In outer zones such as 3 or 4, lower cost, less energy demanding solutions such as windbreak plantings are used to slow the wind. Closer to the home more intensive solutions such as walls or use of gray water might be used to protect water-demanding plants, animals and people from a drying wind.
A drying wind may put your garden at extra risk during low rainfall months, but it can also be used as a resource and allow for the optimum placement of laundry lines.
Permaculture designers make a sector analysis for every design project whether it is a farm, balcony garden or community project. Within larger designs, major subsystems such as high intensity vegetable beds may also benefit from their own sector analysis that includes smaller scale micro-climate influences like the impact of trees casting shade.
Working on sector analysis is a great way to review and incorporate the ideas from Permaculture Design Course modules on climate, ecology, water, earthworks, soil and passive solar building design. Knowing how and why to make a sector analysis is a first step in designing mitigation approaches for the major extremes whether they be fire, flood, drought or legal challenges.
You can learn more about sector analysis and other aspects of permaculture design and practice in the Permaculture Women’s Guild Permaculture Design Course (PWGPDC). Along with my colleagues we’ve put together an online learning experience which includes advanced modules on social and emotional permaculture as well as core land-based permaculture content.
In the PWGPDC I present an in-depth module on Designing for Resilience: Chaos and Catastrophe. I consider the social and structural conditions that make people more vulnerable to disaster as well as the design approaches we can use to make our sites safer. My final Masters project explored how natural hazards are dealt with by permaculture designers and teachers and my results showed that “designing for catastrophe” is currently focused on the physical aspects of disasters rather than the people care aspects that increase coping capacity.
Lest we forget that wars and violence are still happening, that civilians are affected too, that the combatants who come home are often invisibly damaged, that our governments fail to ethically and successfully care for those who flee. Lest we forget those who drowned on the way to Gallipoli or seeking refuge from conflict, lest we forget the non-human victims of violence, lest we forget the genocidal wars of colonisation and the Indigenous people who died protecting country. Lest we forget (Manus, Nauru, Syria, Palestine). Lest we forget that there are people who profit from war and that peace is a much harder struggle. At the going down of the sun and in the morning I will remember _all of them_.
Over on Facebook I posted my thoughts on ANZAC Day. It’s amazing how I can imply stronger sentiments than Yassmin Abdel-Magied did last year but because I am white (and not a celebrity) I won’t be vilified or made so uncomfortable that I have to leave Australia as a result. That said, I might not be let back into Australia again. I obviously don’t love coal as much as a good Australian should, I have many opinions and oh yeah, I’m granddaughter of a refugee.
Here’s what, peace and non-violence is a struggle. In my own home disagreements sprout over who cleans the bathroom and what does clean actually mean and grow into anger whether my spouse and I are fairly dividing the emotional labour of household management and infertility. Only yesterday morning I kicked the wall out of frustration and hormones, but because peace is an on-going work in progress we hugged before I left for work and I was offered a foot massage in the evening. This is just the challenge of maintaining peace between two people who love each other most of the time. Keeping peace going between ethnicities, genders, religions and nations is a far sight harder but it doesn’t mean it stops being work worth doing.
Days of recognition and rememberance like ANZAC Day are important but we need to do the work of keeping the peace that lives were sacrificed for. On ANZAC Day I think about my 21 year old paternal great-uncle whose plane was shot down in Belgium days short of the end of World War One. He didn’t die so that more wars could be fought, he died while working so that other people could live in peace, so that countryside could be productive and beautiful rather than a battlefield. I recognise that some motivations for acts of war are ironically about achieving peace, but there are so many other ways of getting to, keeping and maintaing peace.
I just signed up for a Noongar language and culture course offered by EDX beginning May 14. This is part of my Australis design thread. Several weeks ago I read an article about how to show solidarity and support for North American First Nations people and learning the local language was one of the suggestions. As a migrant who has lived in Helsinki, Sheffield, Berlin and Linz as well as my hometown of Adelaide I realised that although I have attempted to learn at least the basics in local lanuagues when I travel and officially migrated I never did the same in Australia. In Adelaide there are still Kaurna people actively using their language yet it was not a language formally offered in school or elsewhere. Why did I continue to learn French after high school but not a language in daily use where I lived?
As the intention to move to Margaret River and “Going Home” has crystallised, knowing country has become more and more important in multiple ways. While I can’t yet plant my first trees on my land or lay out a strawbale house I can start the process from afar by learning Noongar, the local indigenous language. In the South West, many place names follow the pattern of __________up, Noongar for “place of the ________”, so I already hold words like Cowara (purple crowned lorikeet) from the town name Cowaramup.
I am interested in the phenomenological calendar of the South-West and developing the ability to recognise season through the changing behaviour or animals. Knowing the names of things is important and there is knowledge to be gained by following up stories from scientific, European and Noongar ways of knowing.
I am also reminded of my Dad and the Pitjantjatjara cassette tapes he owned. Mum said that he bought them the day after his brother George died. While Dad was connected with the Pitjantjatjara people and country through his visits north he never did learn the language and in the end the tapes just held mixes of pop songs recorded from Triple J. Maybe I can do a little better?
I love fermenting kim chi. I love gathering the vegetables, sharpening the knife to slice them and the mindfulness of massaging the mix until the liquids release. I love singing along with @formidableveg as I stuff the veggies into a jar. I love eating the kimchi at the end, but most of all I love it when the fermentation kicks off and spicy juice starts bubbling over. This is this moment when the magic and wildness is known, the yes moment of life being and culture doing. It is akin to seeing that yes your seeds have sprouted or learning that a loved one is becoming a parent. I love this moment as it reminds me that I’m in this life together with tiny microbes and in solidarity with generations of other fermenters around the world. Revolution is here in my kitchen! #fermentrevolution #fermentation #permacultureathome #kimchi #baerlauch #diwo #permaculturewomen #foodporn #handflavour via Instagram https://ift.tt/2JdtupS
I’ve been contributing to the #permaculturewomen online permaculture design course for about six months now. It’s been a long process of sketching module ideas, drafting texts, filming and editing, followed by error checking, image sourcing, proofreading and quality control content updates. My video making learning curve has been steep and the tripods repurposed from found objects.
I love that we have been doing it with others #diwo with broader support from our local communities. This PDC is excellent but imperfect, a beautiful whole of diverse parts. Most importantly we are finally launched and live!
Sign up at: https://ift.tt/2EbBoMX
@themathscaptain made the my favourite moontime meal again which is Wachau Blunzn (blood sausage) fried with potatoes and Creme fraiche. It’s moments like this which make me wonder why we’ll relocate to Australia. #moontimemeals #fullmoon #producenowaste #mouthorgasm via Instagram https://ift.tt/2J7X3sZ
After much pondering and a bit of support and encouragement from my mum I made a once in a lifetime investment in a grain mill with combined flaker for porridge and muesli. This thing is a heavy beast but rather beautifully made. I am expecting a steep learning curve as I get deeper into baking and generally grinding and squashing seeds, beans and stuff. via Instagram https://ift.tt/2uDZ6SC
I’ve been lax in the hustle of writing and video making and sending the emails needed to sell places on the Permaculture Women’s Guild Permaculture Design Course and you know, earn a yield. You know what? I’m not rushed. This is a project which will endure and get better and better and yield long into the future.
I’ve been preparing a supporting handout on working with sun angles and solar sectors. Explaining this in person is fine, but putting it down on paper is another educational process entirely. I am pretty sure that one of the main reasons I love teaching is that I learn more deeply every time.
Instead of marketing and spruiking I’ve been helping Heather Jo Flores and other wonderful women as we polish modules, take some final photos, prepare handouts, proofread and clarify and generally make sure that this collaboritive online experience is an integrated and functioning whole. I’m getting sneak peaks of the completed and uploaded modules and DAMN this is good. We really are working to make a quality permaculture learning experience that works with the limitations and benefits of the online context.
Whether you’ve studying permaculture for the first time or wanting to deepen your existing knowledge this is going to be an excellent experience.
Right, I’d better get back to that eagle eyed proofreading so that I can go through and study the whole PDC with the eager mind and heart of a student.