Friday, November 30, 2018

Mulch Much?

By Heather Jo Flores
It's that wonderful time of the year when leaves are falling, plants are decomposing and moisture is in the air. A perfect time for mulching! There is never a bad time for mulch, but with so much surplus organic matter available, it makes sense to harness those resources and use them to warm and protect your garden for the winter.

Mulch builds humus. The word "human" comes from the same roots as humus, meaning earth, and in fact our bodies do contain many of the same elements and microorganisms as fertile organic soil. Soil health is linked to our own health, and soil communities bear remarkable resemblance to the flora and fauna in our own guts.

A diverse, thriving intestinal community keeps us humans healthy, and the same goes for the soil ecosystem.

A layer of mulch, whether up around perennials and fruit trees or as a cover for next year's vegetable beds, serves several important purposes. Mulch covers topsoil, keeping it dark and moist, which encourages soil organisms to come to the surface where they eat, breed and poop. Mulch provides habitat for worms and larger insects that travel across the garden in search of shelter. If they find your mulch, they'll move in, further increasing your soil diversity and in turn, garden health. All of this micro-activity is akin to having a teeny-tiny compost machine that cultivates every inch of your soil, increasing organic matter and aeration and building a nutrient-rich foundation for the garden.

Mulch retains water. It acts as a sponge, soaking up the rainfall and slowly releasing it into the soil below. Larger mulch piles can be shaped into mini-berms and used to direct water away from the storm drain and back onto your site. Or dig small swales — shallow trenches on contour — and fill them with a thick mulch to create water-retaining borders all around the garden.

Mulch keeps plant roots warm, which is especially helpful for those varieties that do OK in a temperate climate but would probably prefer a slightly warmer climate, like pomegranate, lemon, bananas and many fancy flowering bulbs. For these plants, I like to use larger rocks and river gravel under a leaf mulch. The rocks retain heat, the leaves insulate. But be careful not to pile the leaves too high up the trunk because they can cause rot. Focus on warming the roots just below the soil surface, spreading out from the plant.

In addition to rocks and leaves, there are several other types of mulch that are easily found in the area. Straw bales can be purchased at any farm store, or try the fairgrounds after an event — they often use bales for temporary seating and in parking areas, and you might be able to get them for free.

I like a thick cover of straw mulch over the top of my compost pile and on vegetable beds. I am not crazy about the aesthetics of straw, however, and so I don't tend to use it on perennial beds. It does make a wonderful insulator, because each of those little pieces of straw is a hollow tube filled with air that gets warmed by the slow decomposition. Excellent for covering garlic beds over winter, or around winter brassicas. Don't use hay! Hay is green and has tons of grass seeds that will grow all over your garden! Make sure you ask for "straw."

Cardboard and newspaper can be good options for mulching larger areas, especially if you want to kill grass or weeds. Peel the mulch off in the spring and dig beds, or cover the paper mulch with a thick layer of organic matter (leaves, straw, wood chips, or a blend of them all) and plant right into it. Be careful that you don't mulch over bindweed or Bermuda grass, though — it won't kill them and they'll make a thick mat underneath that will choke out your plant roots later.

Wood chips, sawdust and bark can be beautiful under perennials, but they can be expensive to buy. You can sometimes find free sawdust at a local wood shop. I like to use it for blueberries and strawberries, because they love that extra acid. You can also get free wood chips through, where you can register your house, indicate what type of chips you prefer, and make yourself available as a drop site for local tree services that need to dump their shredded surplus.

A final word of warning: Some mulches, especially straw and leaves, can harbor slugs and snails. So watch out for that, especially around baby vegetable plants. In another post, I  discuss natural ways to deter these slimy pests. Until then, happy mulching!

#permaculture #freepermaculture #permaculturewomen #growyourown #foodnotlawns #DIY
#foodforest #mulch

Via Permaculture Women's Guild - free permaculture

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Free Mini-class: Urban Permaculture, accessing land in cities

with Becky Ellis

Excerpted from our double certificate design course.

The permaculture movement began as a re-imagining of agrarian landscapes but it has exciting emancipatory potential in re-imagining how cities might become places in which humans and nature co-create and co-operate. Urban permaculture allows us to create ecologically regenerative spaces in our individual lives and in collective spaces.

Lack of access to land is often raised as a barrier to participation in permaculture. Land ownership in North America, both rural and urban, is prohibitively expensive for many people. Many permaculture practices are based on land ownership including the creation of perennial gardens, the growing of food forests, major earthworks such as berms and swales and the building cob structures.
Picture of a woman sitting in her yard next to her Little Free Library
Me and my Little Free Library in London, ON.
In cities, access to land is one of the biggest obstacles for people hoping to practice permaculture. Land in the city tends to be very expensive and zoning rules mean that some practices may be forbidden in certain parts of the city (for example, animals considered ‘livestock’).

In this mini class we will discuss strategies for accessing land in cities.
Although access to land for urban agriculture projects can be an obstacle, people have found a variety of creative ways to overcome this barrier.
  • Accessing public land. Cities contain more public land than rural areas. Many community gardens are hosted on public, or publically accessible, land. Sometimes community gardens have rules or guidelines that restrict some permaculture techniques, for example, not allowing the planting of perennials or shrubs. You can approach this in a couple of ways: You can work with the city department or organization that oversees the garden to change the rules, or you can plant what you want and beg for forgiveness. Both approaches can work. If you plant what you want in your garden plot, I advise you to be mindful of your neighbours and not plant overly opportunistic plants such as comfrey or mint.
Picture of a front yard cucumber hedge
A front-yard cucumber hedge in Portland, Oregon.
Additionally, there is a growing movement around the world for public food forests, community farms and collective apiaries. Collective projects in public spaces can be an important way to begin to reclaim the commons and can help to disrupt the concept of private property. This is an important part of beginning to grapple with what it means to decolonize our cities. We can begin to shift our language and practice from one of ownership of land to one of care-taking and attachment. I have found it very useful to, while retaining my community activism and grassroots organizing, find some allies within city governments whether that be staff or city councilors.
Picture of a handmade bee hotel
A bee hotel in Luxembourg Park, Paris.
  • Community land trusts. There has been a growing movement for community growing projects on private land (such as vacant lots, private land with short-term leases, or, in some cases, public land with short-term leases) to be turned into community land trusts. Many of the community gardens in New York City that were set to be destroyed in the 1990s were saved by a community land trust. This can still bring up some tricky issues about who has the right to control that land. If the land trusts are larger non-profit with a lot of paid staff, there can still be a disconnect to and with the creators of the project. Don’t be discouraged though! There are many examples of grassroots land trust projects that value and practice participatory democracy.
  • Sharing other people’s property. There are many instances of people who have property sharing it with people who don’t for urban agriculture and permaculture projects. Sometimes this is done between strangers, using a website that matches them. More often it involves friends, family, and neighbours engaging in the kind of sharing that is a cornerstone of a connected community. It can be awkward to approach a neighbour, acquaintance, or even a friend about using their land for a project. As Heather Jo Flores suggests, “Go on, go over there, bring some seeds and a smile, and ask!” Even after they say yes, it means delicately negotiating some sort of mutually beneficial agreement about how the land will be used, by whom, and for how long. This is another reason why social permaculture is so crucial, and potentially amazing. You might not get the answer you want but you might find the possibilities for collaboration and creativity to be even greater than you hoped.

  • Accepting temporary access. As mentioned above, sometimes people can only get temporary access to land in cities. They may be renting their apartment or home, or a community project may only be given a temporary lease. It can be helpful to think of your project/design as part of a larger urban ecosystem. As Flores beautifully points out in Food not Lawns, “Growing ecological gardens, wherever you can, is never a waste of time. Nothing lasts forever, and if you can get a few baskets of food without damaging the environment, and perhaps leave behind some long-living fruit trees, then the larger ecological community will surely benefit from your labors. If you can do these things while also educating others, then your work will succeed many times over” (p. 24).

  • Guerilla Gardening. As noted earlier, many now established gardens got their start as guerilla gardens, i.e. people gardening on land without permission of the landowner. This is often done in vacant lots but people have also planted fruit trees in public parks and put garden baskets on public streetscapes. These projects may become permanent or they may be destroyed, but they have several benefits. One, they add to ecological health and biodiversity for as long as they exist and two, they encourage people to ask challenging and critical questions about city design and the food system.

  • One word of caution: In order to not replicate racism and/or classism, I recommend that you guerilla garden in your own neighbourhood. Sometimes well meaning people try to initiate urban agriculture or permaculture projects in neighbourhoods that are not their own and may, unwittingly or not, be part of marginalizing or alienating people in that community. Don’t decide for others what they need: Focus on the communities in which you are already well-integrated and then work in solidarity with other communities and neighbourhood.
Picture of an urban street container garden
The container garden in Washington D.C.
Now that we’ve discussed strategies for accessing land in cities it’s time for you to explore these strategies first hand. A recommended way to start would be to find an urban permaculture project and volunteer for one hour. Do whatever is needed but be sure to talk to people about their experiences while you work alongside them. If you can’t find an urban permaculture project, find a community garden or urban farm.


This miniclass is excerpted from the Urban Permaculture module of our double-certificate design course, taught by Becky Ellis. 

Becky Ellis is a permaculture educator and community activist in London, Ontario, Canada. Becky is a PhD candidate in Human Geography at Western University. Her research project is focused on the relationship between people and urban bees.  Becky maintains the blog Permaculture for the People and regularly gives workshops and presentations about urban permaculture, community gardening, and gentle beekeeping. She embraces the challenge of bringing permaculture (and honeybees!) to the suburbs.

Further reading on this topic:

Thomas, Pandora and Starhawk. “Black Lives Matter: A permaculture perspective”. Permaculture magazine. July 11, 2016. Accessed December 8, 2017. statement of solidarity with Black Lives Matter activists. A must read.

Flores, Heather. Food not Lawns: How to run your yard into a garden and your neighbourhood into a community. Chelsea Green, 2006. A fabulous, in-depth guide to permaculture, especially focused on cities by our very own Heather Jo Fores. This book has a very good focus on community organizing - unlike some permaculture books it does not simply focus on transforming private spaces. It’s so inspiring that it spawned, Food not Lawns activist groups throughout the continent.

Piven, Frances Fox and Richard Cloward. Poor People’s Movements: Why they succeed, how they fail. Vintage Books, 1977. This is another older book that is a classic. In this book Piven and Cloward examine movements of and BY poor people. This book has been deeply influential and also puts forward the argument that poor people’s movements must be self-organized not implemented for them by well-meaning (or not) do-gooders. One of my favourite activist organizations is part of this movement - the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty.

#urbanpermaculture #communitylandtrusts #guerrillagardening #publicland #freepermaculture #permaculturewomen #foodnotlawns
Via Permaculture Women's Guild - free permaculture

Thursday, November 15, 2018

“Waste Not Want Not” Twelve+ R’s for Creating a Life Without Waste

Picture of the earth
Too wonderful to waste (NASA)
Most of the challenges we face in the world today, including climate change, diminishing resources, loss of biodiversity, food and water shortages, are the result of the wasteful practices of our modern society. Clever technologies conveniently remove the burden of dealing with the consequences of waste by distancing us from them, at least temporally. But invariably the impacts just cycle back somewhere or sometime else, often dumped on future generations. Tossed plastics don’t just disappear in the dump, the carbon dioxide from our industry and cars reaches out to the poles, waste cycles back to us, because we are part of a closed system, a beautifully complex web of connecting and cycling feedback loops. The impact of wastefulness goes beyond the material costs, something more profound is lost; the gift of wisdom that comes from insight that these feedback cycles offered us, an awareness of the value of our interconnection.

More and more people are joining a movement for a different kind of society, one based on the same ethics that guide permaculture; care for the people, the earth and future generations. People are claiming back their lives from mindless consumerism, debt, and wastefulness, to a life of awareness, self reliance, community and enjoying quality time. Taking practical personal steps, can be empowering in our own lives and lead to wider community level change, that ultimately leads to a profound cultural shift. In many communities such change is already in motion.
Picture of two women with a salad from the garden
Picture of a chart made by the author
Here are Twelve+ Rs to help guide you on your way to cutting down on waste. It may seem a simple goal, but it can be eye opening, and have surprising repercussions in all aspects of your life. While acting in your own life, you will be joining with other people all around the world, participating in becoming part of the positive solution to the bigger global challenges facing all of us.

 To cut down on waste-simply refuse to receive unnecessary items (even if they are free) or buy stuff that is not reusable, compostable or recyclable. Say no to plastic bottles, and bags, to package goods, to unnecessary items like junk mail, and stuff with high embedded costs. What we don’t take we don’t waste. There are movements like the Voluntary Simplicity Movement and Minimalism that aspire to cut back on waste. As the name implies the Zero Waste Movement takes it one step further-reducing waste to particularly zero.

: We can reduce what we do bring into our lives. Declutter. Conserve. Simply buy, own, and use less; water, fossil fuel based energy, chemicals, appliances, and stuff in general, etc. Lift the burden of stuff off your back and livelihood. Reduce what you thought you needed to own, clean, maintain, and replace. Step lightly into a new life where you accumulate less stuff and appreciate what you have.
A picture of a woman building with repurposed materials
Picture of a basket made from repurposed materials
Picture of two women building with repurposed materials
Repair: Fix things rather than tossing them and buying new ones. Buy things you can fix. For example Fairphones is making phones with parts that can be replaced when broken so the whole device does not need to be tossed. People are coming together in “repair cafes”, where they can share repair skills so items can be fixed and reused.

Reuse: Buy second hand when you can: clothes, furniture, appliances… everything. When you are done with something, give it a new home rather than throwing it away or even recycling it. When you buy, buy things that are well made and will last, that can be reused for generations. I still wear my dads old shirts that are about 30 years old and my 25 year old bike still works great. Antique furniture is cool and valuable and can often be found inexpensively at swap sales and flea markets — IKEA just doesn’t make things like that now.

​Plus, used items can be passed on with a story of care and respect. Reuse is not limited to stuff. For example greywater can often be reused through a simple design to water trees. Using your imagination and permaculture design many items can be creatively reused multiple times.
Picture of a basket made from 500 recycled bags
A basket crochet from 500 recycled plastic bags
Repurpose and Upcycling: Here is where people get really creative; turn pallets into furniture, a cigar box into a guitar, cut wine and beer bottles in half to make drinking glasses. There is a whole movement of reusing spent cooking oil to run cars. If you like crocheting, you can take 500 plastic bags like my sister Nina did, and crochet them into a bigger, stronger, better bag. People are building whole houses with “junk”, using everything from tires to plastic bottles (check out the earthship movement). You can make beautiful art, musical instruments, new clothes from old ones, old clothes into other useful stuff, (felting old sweaters into blankets). The examples are endless. Be creative, have friends help, throw an upcycling party.
Picture of a compost pile
Picture of worm compost
Regenerate: Compost organic waste in worm bins, backyard compost piles or through community composting programs to regenerate soils. Your organic waste problems become the solution. When you do buy, try to buy items that are compostable such as paper packaging rather than plastic. Buy clothes made from organic cotton, bamboo, or wool rather than polyester. Consider what items are made of, and choose biodegradable wherever possible.
Picture of at home recycling
Picture of paper towels from 100 percent recycled materials
Recycling: Is what you do, only if you can’t do the other R’s. It’s a last resort and it has to be done right otherwise it’s just “wishful” recycling. If we toss recyclables improperly into the bin like people do with garbage that’s what it might become. You may need to wash off food, separate by type, and bring things you want to recycle to certain drop sites. If you do buy, buy things made from recycled materials. Our plastic bucket is made from recycled plastic, the paper I print on is recycled paper. Buying recycled products reduces the extraction of more raw materials and helps close the loop for materials that are non biodegradable like plastics.
Picture of people sharing a meal
Picture of hands holding up a structure
Rethink: Is there another way to get this item rather than buying it, even if its recycled? Could I borrow it? Lend it? Swap it? Share it ? Communal ownership of tools, bikes, cars, land, homes, boats, washing machines and more.. is an example of rethinking consumerism. Here is another opportunity for creativity and building community. Our reliance on brain numbing convenience has really taken a lot of creatively and fun out of collaborating and sharing. And it’s not limited to stuff; transportation, services, work, projects, meals…all these activities, when shared, can build relationship webs of interdependence that create vibrant and caring communities.
Picture of different currencies
Redesign and reinvest: Innovators and regenerative product designers that are inspired by natural cycles have created a circular economy movement in which long-lasting product design, maintenance, repair, reuse, remanufacturing, refurbishing, and recycling are encouraged and rewarded. Taking it even further economists such as Kate Raworth, in her book “Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st-Century Economist”, suggests we redesign our economy so it is based on earth and people care instead of one based on endless growth where costs are externalized. We can support these movements politically and as investors and consumers. Reinvest your money in your community and where your values are. More and more people are turning to alternative value base currencies.
Picture of a garden with some harvested vegetables in a basket
Picture of herbs in a jar
Resource and resilience: Reduce your waste resource footprint and create a more resilient lifestyle by growing and making your own resources. Growing some of your own food and herbs, even in small quantities, will lower your waste footprint. What you can’t grow resource locally at farmer markets, thereby reducing waste from transport and packaging. You can also resource your own toothpaste, shampoo and cleaning products using a few simple organic ingredients that are biodegradable and need no packaging. (The Internet has loads of recipes. I can pretty much take care of all of these with a kit of vinegar, baking soda, white clay, citrus peels, olive oil, and a bit of homemade soap).
Picture of a yellow flower
Relax, reflect, and recharge: Wastefulness is often the result of a rushed, over-extended lifestyle. Slow down. Take time to remember do things the way you want to, smell the flowers, play, reach out to friends, and act with care. It is indeed a shame to waste life’s gifts of time, opportunities, and people.

​Recognize, revere, and reward: 
The opposite of being wasteful, could be described as recognizing and appreciating what life offers us. The twelve +Rs can become a part of our daily practice that reflects and builds on our values to cherish life. From this orientation we are simply less likely to make choices that lead to waste. And more likely to recognize and enjoy what we have, in our lives, communities and the world. Our collective actions can reclaim a shared reverence for life. Acting together we can co-create deeply rewarding feedback loops.
Want to learn more and join a vibrant community on this path? The Permaculture Women’s Guild Online Permaculture Design Course, created by 40 international and expert co-facilitators offers a unique, meaningful, and in depth learning experience for people wanting to take part in creating a more resilient and sustainable future, click on this link for the complete information.
#waste #repurpose #minimalism #zerowastemovement #permaculture
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Thursday, November 8, 2018

Towards a Socially Sustainable Permaculture — Some Practical Steps

There is no doubt that over the past decades, permaculture has grown tremendously in popularity. Permaculture Design Certificates, books, movies, meetings, convergences, teachers’ groups — all have seen an increase. I would argue that Permaculture has grown into a bonafide, international, globally connected movement. For enthusiasts such as myself, this is generally great news. However, with popularity, also comes analysis and responsibility.
An illustration of a person carrying a city on their back
Permaculturists such as Heather Jo FloresKim Del Valle Garcia, LisaDePiano, and Silvia Di Blasio have all contributed analyses which point to the fact that there is certainly a large deficit within the permaculture movement in terms of understanding how oppression is systemic in nature, and how permaculture without awareness of this can perpetuate racism, sexism, classism, cultural appropriation and other forms of discrimination.

I think that the current work on decolonizing permaculture has a wealth resources to offer and this article is my humble attempt to add to that body of knowledge. This is a piece for folks who see the need to implement decolonization and social justice within permaculture but who might be left wondering what to do first in order to transition towards a more conscious and just permaculture practice.

​For instance, I might be interested in stopping the appropriation of knowledge, but I might not know the right words to use to give credit to local indigenous peoples in a way that is not only respectful but that also acknowledges the histories of violence and oppression that have lead to me, a white woman living in Canada, being able to do something like appropriate indigenous knowledge and not even be aware of it in the first place!
Picture of an illustration of a woman holding a rake in her garden with her dog by her and trees and a mountain in the distance

To help me contribute to this conversation, I think it would be useful to situate permaculture within a general context of social justice. When I use the term ‘social justice’ I refer to the acknowledgement of existing inequalities in terms of the distributions of power and privilege amongst social groups, as well as the work being done to address these inequalities.

These inequalities stem mostly from historically rooted social and economic systems that perpetuate violence, oppression, and discrimination based on intersections of race, gender, age, class, education, gender, sexual orientation, able-bodiedness and more.
So, what are some ways that the permaculture movement can engage better with social justice? Below are a few practical tips for reflection and action that could be useful for permaculture practitioners.

Actively make room in permaculture for people who may have more difficulty than others participating in the movement

Permaculture is often marketed as a movement that is ‘open to anyone’ or ‘doable by anyone’, but often we do not address the fact that some folks, while on board with permaculture ethics and principles, might not feel comfortable, or might not have resources to participate to the extent that others are able to.

First, think about this: who is usually present at permaculture gatherings, courses, and meet ups? Do you see any trends in terms of things like gender, skin colour, class or education level when thinking about who is out there teaching permaculture?

I was privileged enough to be able to attend and volunteer at the 5-day long European Permaculture Convergence in Bolsena, Italy in 2016. I was also happy to see presenter Pandora Thomas from the United States talk about social justice and her permaculture training programs for empowering youth at risk and formerly incarcerated folks with permaculture training. Still, Pandora was the only person whose workshop I attended in the convergence to address permaculture through a critical social justice lens and to actually have created a project around it. She was also one of very few people of colour to hold a workshop.

​Given their importance, the kinds of initiatives that Pandora is a part of should have a much larger presence in meetings, convergences, and published material about permaculture; so why don’t they? Perhaps because when the organizers of an event, project or course come from a place of privilege, it is easy not to have to reflect on those things which don’t affect them. So, research and reflection are the first step.

What are some simple things to implement? If you run a permaculture course or workshop, make sure there are gender neutral bathrooms, make sure it’s accessible, and let everyone know! Make sure that participants know that you will be addressing the issue of how folks with more resources in the community can “redistribute the surplus” (one of the core ethics of permaculture) more equitably within their communities, and invite speakers who might be best qualified to discuss this to participate in your workshop/course. Include topics that are locally relevant for marginalized communities. In Canada and the United States that might be something like: How can we work with indigenous communities to support them in their efforts to protect their lands and resources or in current struggles they have with the government?

Obtain Anti-Oppression Training — Don’t Just Read About it!

In order to better understand the concrete ways in which permaculture can be colonizing and generally problematic within the context of social justice, it is important to get the facts from a reliable source i.e. someone with experience in conveying and working with these kinds of topics.

I firmly hold that all Permaculturists need to cultivate an understanding of systemic oppression and colonial history in order to be better equipped to articulate why permaculture practices can contribute to ongoing colonization and to understand on a deep and meaningful level, why this needs to change.

Permaculturists, permaculture teachers or business owners could all benefit from attending workshops with facilitators trained in anti-oppression and social justice work. These can be found in most small and large cities or online. In Canada for instance, we have the PIRG’s — the Public Interest Research Groups — which are student-run bodies that provide support, services and training around issues of environmental and social justice. They will often have facilitators that can provide this kind of training or at least be able to help direct people to organizations or individuals who can. In the States I know about AORTA (Anti-Opression Resources Training Alliance) and Movement Generation who are also doing amazing work.

Design For Processing Discomfort When Faced With Uncomfortable Topics

This ties in closely with the point above. Facilitators who provide social justice and anti-oppression training are also great at helping folks work through the inevitable discomfort that talking about things like power and privilege can cause for many people.

Folks who hold more privilege and power in a given society will often need to process reactions such as guilt, shame, and defensiveness when they come to understand that they have grown up and in, therefore participate (though perhaps unintentionally) in a system that is oppressive to others.

In 2015 I wrote my masters thesis about this same phenomenon happening in the transition towns movement — a sustainability movement closely linked to permaculture — and how these feelings of discomfort around privilege sometimes perpetuated alienation between the movement and others trying to participate.

Through my thesis-writing process I found that I underwent much of the expected feelings of shame and defensiveness as I reflected on the harmful ways I myself had participated in permaculture-based projects. In my permaculture experience, teachers often urge students who anticipate a problem to “design for that”, i.e., to correctly anticipate or identify an issue and use resourcefulness to consciously mitigate it. Having read lots of material on social justice and being connected to activists and facilitators who could help me, I was able to design for having these difficult feelings and was able to get support in processing them.

I have to say that the experience was transformative for me, I am so happy to have gone through it and to be now able to participate in permaculture in a way that better aligns with my views of the world.

Actively Support Social Justice Groups and Activists in Your Community

In my experience, permaculturists often exist in a kind of social bubble. I think this happens when folks looking for more sustainable ways to live come across like minded individuals in the form of students, teachers, or connections they make at permaculture networks and events.

The bonds formed between permaculturists can be very strong and lead to the desire to collaborate solely within these networks. There is nothing wrong with any of this, however, indirectly it can cause a sort of bubble effect that can lead to permaculturists closing in and focusing on building their projects from scratch while simultaneously being oblivious to work already being done in their communities that they could support.

Of course, without reflecting on histories of colonialism or systemic oppression, it’s understandable that permaculturists who hold more privilege might not see the connection between their sustainable homestead (perhaps located on unceded Indigenous territory) and local Indigenous communities fighting for land rights.

However, once the consciousness is there, I do think that the desire for meaningful connection and collaboration comes. One thing to do, is to research your community, go outside of the ‘permabubble’ and offer your skills as a volunteer or show up at events hosted by local organizations and activists who are working towards justice and equity.

There are also ways to exist outside of the bubble within the permaculture community. For example, if permaculturists own a large acreage, why not offer some of that land to use for free to a local social justice organization which may not have such access? Why not invite activists from other groups to come and teach workshops or modules within your permaculture programs? Why not provide scholarships to participants in your partner organizations to attend your permaculture courses? Taking one step will lead to the realization that there are so many avenues for collaboration.


The beauty of permaculture is its amazing versatility as a holistic design system. A meaningful connection to the land can be regenerative to both the land itself and to the people stewarding it, but this connection needs to happen with a deep understanding of the inequalities currently present in our local and global communities. It is necessary to carry out a careful insertion of permaculture projects and practices into the existing matrices of power and privilege in our communities in such a way that these projects contribute to empowering and supporting the work of those folks who could benefit the most from them.

Want to know more?

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog post! If you are interested in learning more about the social dimensions of permaculture as part of the first online Permaculture Design Certificate taught by a group of 40 women from around the world, check out THIS LINK.

Short Bio:

​My name is Lucie and I live in Kelowna, Canada, where I run a permaculture group and work as a coordinator in a non-profit organization that empowers community members facing hardships by teaching cooking, farming, and employment skills. I have a masters degree in the social dimensions of sustainability from Lund University and a background working in social sustainability, community building, writing and mixed media art. To find out more about me and what I do please visit
​ #decolonizingpermaculture #social justice #permaculturewomen #freepermaculture #socialpermaculture
Via Permaculture Women's Guild - free permaculture

Sunday, November 4, 2018

On Teaching Permaculture: Tips for Evolving and Enlivening the Education Paradigm (and why you need to take a Permaculture Teacher Training!)

The magic in teaching
is the questioning mind (JH),
or as Socrates said, 
education is the kindling of a flame
not the filling of a vessel.”
by Jude Hobbs of Cascadia Permaculture
Jude Hobbs permaculture teacher training
Jude Hobbs in action, training the next generation of Permaculture teachers!
This article comes from the perspective of my guiding the process through which aspiring Permaculture teachers gain the confidence and competence to share Permaculture strategies, principles and processes to a wide variety of audiences in a variety of educational settings: from 2-hour “Introduction to Permaculture” talks at local libraries to full 72+-hour standardized Permaculture Design Courses.

Since 2001 I have taught the Permaculture Teacher Training over thirty times and have not taught it the same way twice. I am continually adjusting my teaching approach to incorporate individual needs, participant feedback and new pedagogical techniques. To me, this is the art of teaching: always growing and changing what I teach and how I offer a course by exploring varied teaching strategies with a primary focus on the active learner via a transformational learning process.
This article offers some ideas on how to effectively share information and empower individuals to discover their own teaching styles, along with some of my personal philosophy about evolving and enlivening the educational experience.

Safety first!
How many of you have felt safe in a classroom setting? Did you trust your teacher —their abilities to guide you with accurate information presented in ways you understood, in ways you found both accessible and inspiring? Did you trust your teacher to not roll their eyes if you gave the wrong answer to a question? Have you experienced an instructor being ethically inappropriate with you or with others? Unfortunately, these scenarios are very common in some educational situations. Cultivating a learning community by setting the tone of a safe environment for the “peer culture” of a classroom is also imperative since many students are as afraid of being embarrassed in front of or by fellow students as in front of or by the teacher.

Co-create a safe learning environment by setting clear intentions.

Write about it. Compose a “Memorandum of Understanding” (MOU).
The morning after our evening course opening, which involves participant introductions, the class reviews a Memorandum of Understanding, which was mailed to everyone pre-course. The MOU provides a common set of intentions on how we plan to interact as a learning community working collectively to support one another.

The MOU focuses on the following:
  • Create a Salon atmosphere of “Considerate Conversation.”
  • Establish People Care as a priority. Create a community of trust with personal and collective responsibility for upholding an ethic of care where all personal boundaries are to be respected by all in attendance. We have a zero-tolerance policy for any racist, sexist, discriminatory and/or aggressive behaviors.
  • Clarify protocols for managing interpersonal conflicts upfront. Any personal conflicts are first addressed by those principally concerned, with facilitators following up as needed.
  • No one leaves the course without communicating with someone.
  • Practice mindfulness and self-facilitation during presentations.
  • Agree to be open to constructive comments and critiques during the course experience. Acknowledge that everyone has a right to their own opinion.
  • Be sensitive to timeliness.
  • Strive to make contributions, such as module presentations and questions, short and to the point: Crips, Clear, Concise, and Ever-So-Precise.
  • Refrain from being under the influence of mind altering substances during 
class time.
  • Explanation of parameters for receiving course certificate.
  • The MOU is signed by each participant.
  • As the instructor I have the same MOU as the participants.
Talk about it.
We review the MOU as a group with the opportunity to discuss any questions and /or concerns and/or needed additions. During our course introduction we set the tone for people to be comfortable, stating that all questions are honored, inviting people to place anonymous suggestions in a specially designated basket, and employing a variety of techniques to help participants get to know one another.

Additional ways to set the tone and build trust:
  • Give participants an opportunity to share who they are and what their hopes are for the course. As part of the Course Teaching Packet I send a Questionnaire for participants to fill out before they arrive. Information requested through the Questionnaire includes prior Permaculture experience, a short biographical statement, a statement of their primary and secondary learning objectives and expectations for the course, and an opportunity for participants to include anything else they would like to share about themselves or their concerns prior to the course.
  • Arrange one-on-one interviews with participants upon arrival at the course.
  • Be as transparent as possible. I like to give participants a sense of who I am as a person and an educator, why I offer information as I do, and what I have learned as an educator over many years, including many time-honored ‘tricks of the trade.’
  • Nurture positive relationships.
  • Do not embarrass anyone. Keep a neutral and respectful manner in relation to gender, race, age, ethnicity, and sexual orientation.
  • Utilize a Sense of Place: explore the many ways topography, geology, wildlife, water, native plants, food, shelter and housing can benefit the learning process.

Co-create Effective Learning & Learning-to-Teach Environments. 
Learning environments are considered “effective” if learner outcomes, individual and collective, are achieved for each module. As an example, in teaching about roof water catchment, will the learner be skilled in sharing the steps in order for participants to design and install this type of whole system? In working together as a class can they achieve this goal in hands-on practice?

Explore multiple pathways for-co-creating effective learning environments:
  • Participants and instructor co-collaborate on a whole systems methodology to inform the learning process and co-create the learning environment. There is always something occurring within and among the parts of a system which maintains and enriches the whole over time. For the learning process and learning environment, it can be a daily pattern and/or being mindful of how big picture strategies involve the dynamic integration of multiple elements and points of view. This can be accomplished by designing modules from patterns to detail.
  • Keep everyone comfortable and energized! Provide a comfortable and functional classroom: seating, lighting, temperature, tables/desks, easy-to-read white/chalk boards and suitably colored markers/chalks, digital projector set up for ease of use, and plenty of wall space for poster galleries, etc. The classroom should be large enough for participants to sit in a circle, which enhances collaborative interactive learning. Encourage “break out dance parties” at breaks to keep the energy moving.
  • Create Learning Poster Galleries for group memory.
  • Maintain consistent patterns throughout the course so participants know what to expect. Provide a clear course outline and daily schedule of what is happening and when. Repeat regular classroom patterns throughout the course, such as daily morning check-ins and announcements.
  • Teach the art of Mindful Facilitation (with role playing) early on in the course. This goes a long way in promoting self-facilitation among participants for the rest of the course.
  • Time management: be aware of unrealistic expectations of how much you can achieve within an allotted time.
  • Empower participants through active learning, deep listening and pauses between when people speak. This is especially helpful for people who are quiet or may need to get up their nerve to speak.
  • Encourage journaling: ask critical thinking questions to enhance learner generated outcomes. Journaling encourages self-reflection and deeper thinking.
  • Asset mapping: encourage participants to identify and articulate their own and others’ strengths and weaknesses.
  • Have participants prepare for and co-teach multiple short presentations. This enables participants to learn effective teaching strategies that build confidence via practice and peer coaching. Peer coaching addresses presentation style, including eye contact, voice projection and intonation, body language and remembering to breathe. These teaching exercises are designed to help participants practice and explore diverse teaching techniques, with less focus on content and greater focus on becoming comfortable with these techniques and managing nervousness.
  • Stack functions” and build redundancy into the learning process: My approach is to present one subject in at least three of four different ways: power point, posterdiscussion grou, and/or a hands-on project
  • Encourage “spiral learning” —returning back to a previously talked about topic. This repetition enhances memory, as it can take as many as six times for an adult to hear a concept before it is retained. Apply information to local, bioregional and global perspectives.
  • Design interactive activities, such as games, to address different learning styles and to enhance “edutainment.”
  • Include hands-on program activities as much as possible. These can be out doors types of activities with hands in the soil or working on building projects, or activities held within the confines of the classroom where small groups are given a task and challenged to come up with solutions, such as designing a sample interactive lesson plan that teaches how to build a compost pile.

Finally, how can you tell this is working?
  • Participants are actively engaged in shifting the conventional education paradigm of passive learning, often characterized as students as vessels to be filled with information they lack. Moving towards a collaborative, co-creative community-informed education paradigm inclusive of diverse learning styles and teaching modalities.
  • Participants are animated, dialogue is lively and the atmosphere is inclusive.
  • People are clearly enjoying themselves while remaining focused on the course: the mood is playful, creative, happy and relaxed.
  • Participants exhibit focused learning with a sense of deep satisfaction.
  • Participants exhibit critical thinking with attention to problem solving.
  • Instructional materials are relevant, timely, and applicable, empowering participants for future action.
  • Participants exhibit application of Permaculture Principles and Ethics with the focus on relationship interconnections.
  • As an educator you keep your ego in your pocket.

I offer Permaculture Teacher Trainings all over the world. Here's the flyer for my next one:
information about permaculture teacher training

Why Guide Permaculturists, and Others, to Teach Permaculture?

Permaculture Education as an Extension of Permaculture Principles

As a Permaculture teacher, my goal in guiding others to teach Permaculture is to encourage and inspire them to discover and celebrate their own unique strengths and abilities as educators, and to empower them with the confidence and tools they need to effectively communicate Permaculture principles, inspire change, and transform the way people everywhere value and apply true sustainability practices. As co-creators of the Permaculture Teacher Training learning environment, and through collaborative, dynamic interactions via group projects, participants build a strong social community and form resource networks to support one another and maintain lasting friendships.

I actively support the next generation of Permaculture trainers with the philosophy that sharing meaningful knowledge is regenerative, empowering and part of the Permaculture solution….“kindling (and strengthening) the flame” of Earth Care, People Care and Future Care.

Student Testimonials

Jude creates a course that finds the perfect balance between creating a safe comfortable learning environment and a place to push your comfort zone and to grow.”
--J.D., Course participant, 2017

This course is a living example of Permaculture Design. The design of the course itself, the course location, the learning environment, and the total delivery embody the principles, ethics, and functional application of Permaculture Design for place, people, and evolution. This course has empowered me with the knowledge, strategy, tools, techniques and ability to empower others through teaching.” --C.S. (2016)

This course is a week-long intensive for Permaculture designers and educators who are interested in honing their craft as teachers/presenters. It has been transformative and valuable beyond measure. Jude has a lot of wisdom and knowledge to share and is great at drawing out our strengths. She helped facilitate learning peer to peer and has helped me grow as a Permaculture designer and educator. Jude herself is an amazing resource, and the bulk of my learning came through her ability to tap into the wisdom of the group and inspire thoughtful reflection.” —T.M. (2018)

[After this course] I feel like I could put together a weekend Intro to Permaculture course no problem. I gained valuable friends and colleagues here. I also feel stronger, refreshed, more confident in myself, and refocused on my path.” —J.S. (2018)

Jude Hobbs is an internationally recognized Permaculture educator and designer with 35 years’ experience in the design and teaching fields. Her focus is whole systems thinking to generate environmentally sound solutions that inspire sustainable actions in urban and rural settings. 
As an educator, she conveys her passion for permaculture by providing curricula developed to encompass diverse learning styles with teaching techniques that are accessible, inspiring and information rich. Jude tends Wilson Creek Gardens, a 7-acre homestead and demonstration site located in Cottage Grove, Oregon, U.S.A.


Listen to Jude's interview on The Permaculture Podcast, describing this course and more:
What Permaculturists are doing is the 
most important activity of any group in the world.”
—David Suzuki
Via Permaculture Women's Guild - free permaculture

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Creating a regenerative city: the possibilities of urban permaculture

Picture of an urban permaculture map.

​​The permaculture movement began as a re-imagining of agricultural, rural landscapes but it has exciting emancipatory potential in co-creating cities that are filled with multispecies abundance. Urban permaculture allows us to create ecologically regenerative spaces both individually and collectively.

People have lived in cities — large, permanent settlements — for thousands of years. Since the turn of 20th century, the rate of urbanization has increased steadily throughout the world, with an especially intense growth after the 1950s. Currently, the majority of the world’s people live in cities, a trend that is expected to continue into the future which makes the potential impact of urban permaculture huge and far-reaching. There are multiple problems with cities but at their heart they are dynamic, vibrant, and diverse. Cities have the potential to be destructive and to increase people’s sense of alienation from each other and non-human nature. But they also have the potential to be lively and vibrant places filled with collective innovation and creativity. Creating ecologically regenerative and socially just cities is one of the most important tasks of permaculture.

​Although urban permaculture can be limited to private, backyard spaces, many practitioners either have no access to private property or, want to extend beyond the limits of their property to collectively envision and create vibrant and revitalized collective spaces.
Picture of a community garden
Benefits of Permaculture in cities

The flourishing of urban nature
​While cites are sometimes dismissed as concrete jungles they are in fact filled with an abundance of non-human nature. In fact, some animals and plants thrive in cities. Recent studies by entomologists, for example, have found that some species of native bees prefer cities to the countryside due to the presence of less pesticides and more floral and habitat diversity. When we consider that many rural areas are filled with oceans of monocultures with islands of intense animal agriculture, it makes sense that many animals and plants flourish in cities.
Picture of bees feeding

Urban permaculture is especially important in co-creating spaces in which non-human urban natures thrive alongside people. The regenerative urban ecosystems we create will be filled with an amazing variety of insects, mammals, birds, and a wide diversity of volunteer plants.

This relationship is not one-sided — we can also benefit from the diversity of non-human nature in cities. For example volunteer plants — commonly known as weeds — can be important sources of food and medicine.

Access to Resources
Cities are wonderful places to practice permaculture because they contain a wide variety of resources, sometimes in the form of other people’s garbage. In many ways cities epitomize the permaculture principle that the problem is the solution. The things that people consider garbage — or sell cheaply at garage sales and thrift stores — may prove to be very useful in permaculture projects. For example, all kinds of containers useful for gardening can be found on the curb on garbage day.

Cities also contain other resources that are under-utilized. For example, cardboard boxes can be used for sheet mulching, newspapers can be used for vermicompost bedding, and leaves make perfect mulch.

Lastly, cities contain anywhere from thousands to millions of people. Many people have both resources and skills to share. This has led to the development of a true sharing economy with the creation of little free libraries, tool libraries, seed libraries and co-operatives of all kinds. Although still on the edges of mainstream society, people have experimented with the sharing of skills in a variety of ways including community resource mapping and bartering networks.

Communities of difference
One of the most important benefits of creating permaculture projects in cities is that urban neighbourhoods can more easily develop into vibrant communities based on difference.
This reaffirms one of the most important principles of permaculture — that diversity creates resilience. Perhaps the most exciting thing about permaculture in cities is that it allows us to collectively imagine a different kind of world, one that is ecologically regenerative and socially just. Join the permaculture movement and actively create a regenerative future shared by all.

Thanks for reading! 

I'm a permaculture educator and anti-racist, feminist activist in London, ON, Canada. I am currently a PhD candidate in Geography at Western University, where I study the relationship between people and bees in cities. My M.A. in Anthropology, also at Western University, focused on gentrification and belonging in a community garden in Toronto. I live in a suburban permaculture sanctuary with my family, two dogs, three cats, two bunnies, and thousands of gorgeous, busy bees. I maintain the blog Permaculture for the People.

Want to know more?
​I am so excited to be teaching urban permaculture as part of the first online Permaculture Design Certificate taught exclusively by women. If you would like to know more or would like to have me as your permaculture design reviewer, please check out my blog and get in touch with me at

#growyourown #foodnotlawns #urbanpermaculture #permaculture

Via Permaculture Women's Guild - free permaculture

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