OK technically this isn’t “live” from Tasmania, but I had to stick to the theme! Here is a summary of our activities during the second week, as seen through my lens.
Although the group project was top of everyone’s mind, classes carried on as before and the topics got more advanced as we carried on. We studied regenerative agriculture on larger crops, annual cropping, food sovereignty, seed saving, alternative economics, social permaculture, holistic decision-making and permaculture-related livelihoods with Hannah, our course leader and primary instructor.
We also had amazing guest lectures. Jono Cooper has extensive experience on larger-scale animal and market garden farms and lead us through animal ethics, design for urban and rural animals and he answered a lot of questions about larger scale market gardens. Anton Vikstrom, who is a sustainability specialist with deep experience in urban agriculture, renewable energy, international development and energy efficiency took us through building design, especially for temperate climates, energy efficiency and designing for energy flow as well as alternative forms and sources of energy.
Oberon Carter, president of the Tasmanian Permaculture organisation and long-time advocate for zero waste took us through his family’s case study, where they literally have had only a small jar of waste and a single tennis ball sized roll of foil as recycled waste. Theirs is truly a remarkable story of dedication, which will shortly appear in a book authored by Oberon. Fascinating, insightful and inspiring stuff.
During this time, as the weather did and didn’t allow it, we also had practical workshops outside. Anton practically demonstrated aspects related to building design, and we had a fun workshop with Clare Aston, a natural materials building specialist (in my words), who guided us, hands-on and really getting dirty, how to build a jet stove using old recycled bricks and cob that we made under her guidance. It was very exciting when we lighted the jet stove in the last night – it really works, smoke-free too!
So the group project was the overarching activity during the second week. Although we had some class time to work on the project, a lot of the real work happed before and after hours. I was fortunate to be in an amazing team, but having said that I have to add that there wasn’t a sinle unamazing team or person on this course – more about that later. So my team consisted of Emma, who knows Tasmania weather, climate, etc. and who loves researching solutions, Lisa, who knows the Tasmanian ecology and environment, and who is an astounding artist, Marion who studies landscaping, runs a gardening business, is a walking encyclopaedia on plants and who has a lot of practical experience gardening on sandy soil, and then me who had to herd us four cats together.
We had a real client who has a very interesting and challenging block: south facing, amazing sea views, very sandy, quite steep slope, which forms part of an informal natural habitat and like everyone else in Dodges Ferry, with a very low annual rainfall. I thought we had it tough in the Otway rain shadow, but I have now realised we actually get a lot of rain in winter. The house is only partly completed, so we had to make a lot of assumptions, but of course it is a very good time for the client to get some preliminary design work done.
Anyway, we partitioned the site analysis work and integrated our key findings on our site map.
Next we did our concept design, which focused primarily on water management, dealing with the slope and feeding the soil, while incorporating the elements needed to fulfil the client’s wishes and requirements. We used a different approach here, where everyone did a rough concept design and then we took the common elements “as is” (which accounted for a large part of the design) and then debated for “best practice” approaches for the remaining elements, making good use of our respective experiences and strong points. Lisa produced the corresponding concept design, a true work of art.
Lastly we researched and refined a number of the keystone elements for our schematic, focusing on the key issues. While Lisa produced our schematic – anther work of art, Marion researched the application of hugelkultur in sand, as well as detailed planting lists, I made sure our permaculture principles and connections were covered and Emma produced a very slick and easy to follow presentation script. So, again we were drawing on everyone’s strong points.
One of the key principles in permaculture is “strength through diversity”. In our class our ages ranged from 21 to 58, collectively we were born on 5 continents and speak about 12 languages (that I could informally count), with an even wider diversity in education, work experience, skill sets and interests. That’s a powerful pool of insight to tap into, right there, as was often evident in group discussions and interactive sessions.
It really was a privilege to share this experience with this fun, friendly and interesting group.
This second week flew by in a blur of activity. Not only did we learn a lot of advanced topics, but the group project was a great way to solidify and embed our learnings and to start digging deeper into aspects relevant to this particular client. Not only did I walk away with a nice and personalised permaculture design certificate, but also with a lot of additional knowledge and practical know how, as well as a bunch of great new connections – I can see some of us collaborating in some way or another in the future. I surely hope so.
Thank you to Good Life Permaculture for a great course, very good content, very well run, great people, a lot of fun, learn’t a LOT and came away very inspired. Now to tackle that list of projects I scribbled in red in the right-hand margin of my notebook! Some of my future blogs will no doubt cover some of these.