From little (seed balls) big (seed balls) grow.

Gosh.  Tomorrow is Day 5 of the local Permaculture Design Certificate course that I am teaching.  I promised that last week we would make some seed balls, so thought I’d do a google to see if I could find some pictures of the finished product (always best for people to know what something is going to look like)…and lo and behold, I found these pictures, from this blog, from over 3 years ago…



I think the best thing is that the kids now play in a part of the garden that has mature shrubs and good soil that has developed from the seed balls that they made in these pictures.  I think the second best thing is that doing that stuff with the kids has created the foundation that morphed into what is now a larger community affair, through The Crop Circle and this PDC course.

It could be enough to make Masanobu Fukuoka smile…

When (building) one thing leads to (building) another.

E-village logoI have mentioned previously that I tend to think in terms of connections.

Earlier posts of commented on the parallels between building soil and building community, and some others have mentioned some of the things I have been trying out that have to do with community…with an emphasis on socially sustainable communities.

The concept of the e-village has emerged from that, with the e-village now up and running, and providing an online way for an entire regional community to connect. It is still in its early days, but so far so good.

How does it work?

  • Every organisation in the town of about 10000 people will have their own Member Page. They can use it really for whatever they like, and they will have access to update it, change it, add photos, link documents, etc.
  • Every organisation will have their own calendar, and any events they add will link to the main community calendar on the front page of the site.
  • Every organisation can post “news” articles.
  • The whole town will receive a regular electronic wrap up of events and news.
  • The site contains a directory of everyone in town with their contact details and a database of all the services that are provided within the town, or to the town from other places.
  • There is a built in telephone which people can use to make free online calls.

For those who are more interested in paying for stuff – since all the above is free – there is low cost advertising and the options to have their own website hosted and/or developed by us.

People sometimes ask how it began. I smile a bit strangely, because the true answer is that it started with a truckfull of cow poo…but I think that is another story.

Another argument for the humble back(front)yard garden.

One of the most remarkable bits of science that I read over the past bunch of years is the findings that there are some soil bacteria that can increase seratonin levels in the brain.

There is all sorts of detail about it, and for that I refer you to the Therapeutic Landscapes Network.

But, what I am wondering about today is connections.

We mess with the soil, and we spend less time in the soil, and we have more antidepressants being used than ever before.

Any connection?

Let’s see:

From ATTRA, we find that an acre of living soil can contain about 1000 pounds of bacteria.  “Living soil” is just talking about healthy topsoil.

From the Science Encyclopedia, we find that due to human activities, there has been losses of upwards of 18tonnes of topsoil soil per acre per year in the past 50 years alone.

From a few different sources (such as this one), we find that the US had lost somewhere between 2 and 4 million acres of topsoil every year.

From the American Academy of Allergies, we find that the rate of asthma increased by 75% from 1980 to now.

From our friends at wikipedia, we find that from 1996 to 2005, antidepressant use in the US doubled.

Anyone care to do some maths?

From phone company to local community

The local phone company idea has been simmering away – we have enough customers to show it can work, and each customer drives money back into their own community.

But, one of the great things about having your own phone company is that you can think more broadly – well, for me, the idea of having my own phone company is just so darn ridiculous that if I can do that, then really there is a whole lot of other stuff I could at least contemplate doing.

One such thing is the e-village – an online community, not reliant on gifts or charity or government grants, but designed intentionally to promote local commerce and local connections.

It launches here on Friday.  Check it out here, and share your thoughts.

If you plant it, [community, hope...] will grow.

Perhaps social systems have a tipping point just like natural systems – or so our local gardening group would seem to suggest…

Last week we relegated 20 years of politics to the garbage bin (well, we would have composted it if it was a physical thing), and left the most recent meeting about a community garden within nothing at all.

Since then, Nicky and I have designed the first conceptual plan for what we believe would be a self-sustaining (economically,socially and ecologically) community garden.  It is in concept form only, with the specific aim of communicating potential, and to scaffold people’s thinking.

And, just today I said “yes, sure” to the offer of money to create a program to provide for small-scale food growing for people in the community who have little to no experience in such things, and for whom healthy food is largely a foreign concept.

It seems that we will roll that program out at about the same time we will have a community meeting to introduce the broader concepts and possibilities of a community garden that helps to drive the community in a preferred, rather than default, direction.

Last week it was a blank page – this week it has some dollar signs on it.

The only thing that happened was three conversations (oh, and several years groundwork).

United Nations comes out in favour of agroecology over intensive agriculture, and in the interests of human rights.

There’s a car bumper sticker that is quite popular in Australia: Every Family Needs a Farmer.

And, I admit, it is quite an effective marketing ploy from the agricultural lobby. I also admit to being quite soft when it comes to farmers, after all they do do a lot of hard work and usually get paid not much. They are also the (intensively raised) meat in the GMO-wheat sandwich.

Traditional arguments about extensive agriculture being needed to feed the world have often prevailed. Smaller players have argued this, but the alternative has largely been based on anecdotal data.

Until now…

Now, the United Nations has gotten in on the act, and has published a very interesting paper that makes it very clear that conventional, intensive methods of agriculture are not the bees-knees after all. Instead, it finds:
agroecology as a mode of agricultural development which not only shows strong conceptual connections with the right to food, but has proven results for fast progress in the concretization of this human right for many vulnerable groups in various countries and environments. Moreover, agroecology delivers advantages that are complementary to better known conventional approaches such as breeding highyielding varieties. And it strongly contributes to the broader economic development.

What I find more interesting than the report itself is that it was developed by the Human Rights Council, and not one of those economic think tanks that are so clearly co-opted by economic powerhouses with very clear interests.

The notion of food as a human right is critical if the issue of feeding people food is going to be resolved.

It reminds me of the very simple statement, Just Eat Food, by an author whose name escapes me ( I suspect Michael Pollon, but cannot be sure).  Not GMO, chemically enhanced, highly processed, engineered, whatever in a packet.  But, food.

Just food.

Just food, grown by people, and eaten by people.

Bending the curve … disruptive thinking sustains a Kenyan slum

I just roamed from one place to another to another and back again.  All in 20 minutes, and all care of this Internet thing.

Starting with a discussion of disruptive thinking, moving to a phone conversation about the e-village, another one about getting a local community garden going as part of the crop-circle, the need to share garden spaces and resources, sack gardening in Kenyan slums, and then straight back to yesterday’s post about bending the curve.

Resilience is all of the above; conversations, ideas, sculpting and bending to form new ways of doing things, challenging old paradigms.

Look at the sack gardens, grown (pun intended) out of necessity.

What is the difference between that necessity and the one facing us all? Perhaps the immediacy of hunger is less able to be ignored?

A good life means a quick death.

First, we killed the wrong one.

Then, yesterday, we killed the right one.  That’s me on the left, and Will on the right – he’s friend of the family, 8yrs, who was keen on being involved.

After about 4 months, this fellow (the rooster, not Will) ended up at a dressed weight of almost 5kgs.  Plenty to share across two families.

Now, the next in line has found his voice and is serenading the neighbourhood with his pubescent rooster crow at all hours- and bothering the ladies with his need to continue his genetics into a new generation.

Good life + quick death = good food, local food, healthy food.

It’s time….for some down to earth, grass roots, action … with guerilla worming.

Guerilla gardening is something that has appealed to me.  Mind you, other than seed bombing about a dozen bare blocks with a mix of beneficial self-sowing annuals and perennials, I have not ventured into it.

I guess what always stops me is the thought that anything I do is on top of the soil, yet it is beneath the hardened, sun-baked surfaces of our local eyesores that the real work is needed.  There is much for me to learn, but one thing I seem to have concluded is that in our dry tropical climate – and perhaps elsewhere – what is on top is simply a symptom of what is below and this is why I have spent almost 10 years trying to build soil on our block: adding organic matter, slowing-spreading-sinking water, encouraging worms….


And so the idea has come.


Guerilla worming.

I have been toying with the idea for a while -well, for a couple of weeks, when I was thinking about it and then … serendipity … someone else mentioned distributing worms in their community.

Now, I have hunted my garden for some worms. Earthworms, the ones living in here and there, in good soils and hard.  They are now in their new home.  About a thousand of them.

The goal.

One million worms – spread anonymously through the community – by the end of the year.

That’s just under 10 months.

Assuming a doubling rate every month, we should come close …. it might take a little longer, or it might pay to get another couple of thousand to start with.

I’ll keep you posted.