Congratulations to all of the student groups on your outstanding design presentations! Our presentation event at Studio Robazzo was highly successful and filled with excitement. It was great to hear about how these design projects had an impact in the community from attendees representing each of the community partner organizations – and even some city councillors! Thanks to all who attended. The course has been tons of fun and we look forward to Part 2 of the course in May at Linnaea Farm School on Cortes Island!
Im currently taking ES 481: Intro to Permaculture Design at UVic. My team, the ‘Welland Permapunks’ are working on creating an improved design for the Welland Legacy Orchard located in View Royal just off the Galloping Goose trail, pictured above. Part of this class involved a field trip to the incredibly inspiring home of Ann and Gord, aka Eco-Sense. Here are my reflections on this immersion into permaculture ‘culture’:
Recently I visited a permaculture homestead called Eco-Sense with a Permaculure Design class (ES: 481). This permaculture-style homestead was truthfully an incredible, inspiring model of the power of applied environmental ethic, ingenious and innovative design solutions, and straight up hard work. I know, sounds too good to be true, but heres the kick- its already happening! The main point which hit home for me was the hardcore attention to detail and data to create meaningful language for people across disciplines; simply, the math made sense. Check out their research reports for yourself.
Ann and Gord, a couple who have devoted themselves to transforming their very lifestyle to be Earth-healing, have honed their permaculture techniques for over 10 years, and have the data to back up their claims of being, pretty much, the best people ever. Their house is peppered with sensors that, along with some well-designed spread sheets, determine: how much energy is saved each year by switching to solar power; how much heat the natural cob walls hold and store (vocab word: thermal mass storage), and how that translates into a decrease in electricity needed to heat their home. They produce over 80% of their food onsite, are active members of their local government, and host workshops to teach others how to retrofit their own homes/lifestyles. Plus have a dog and duck who are best friends or sworn enemies, depending on the time of day.
Check out their blog or visit an open house to see it for yourself. Each element of their house and surrounding ‘food forest’ garden have been designed with the intention of decreasing strain on our Earth system, and in fact create systems which are healing rather than destructive. Honestly, the part that struck me the most was the heated floors (heated by hot water running through piping underfoot), though that may have been due to the freezing weather our class endured while touring their sizeable property. I never thought being a bonafide eco-warrior could also be so luxurious!
I left this tour feeling inspired, daunted at the amount work to be done to transform whole cities, whole nations (thats the goal, right?), and with an underlying sense of unease and insignificance. These people spend each and every day owning their footprint on the Earth in a way I have never seen before, and it made my choices to bike to school and compost food scraps seem appallingly trivial.
The night I returned from the field trip I dreamt of a warzone. I was handed a gun with the understanding that I would be using it to kill. Running between cement blocks, I aimed and shot at everything and everyone in sight. Blood ran in front of my eyes, the landscape swirled around until the only colours were shades of grey and crimson red. I continued to run, jumping over bodies until I stumbled through a doorway and slammed it closed. Gasping for breath I took the time to look around and noticed I was actually standing within an animated world, and the landscape was changing. White paint rollers, computer generated, soon covered the bloodstained ground, cleaning up the mess before the game was reset.
I woke up disturbed, yet curious as to what exactly sparked a dream of such violence. It took me a while to realize I had a nightmare. I thought back to the class visit to Ecosense, and revisited the feeling of dread. The dream left me with a sense of urgency, desperation, and futility, and touched on the underlying sense of unease I felt mixed in with the inspiration and insignificance after leaving the permaculture site. Then, fear.
Deep rooted fear.
To me, Ann and Gord’s home was a testament to applied universal consciousness. Their incredible devotion to building wholesome, healthier lifestyles, communities, and infrastructure not only for the individuals directly involved, but for future communities as well is what this deep care looks like (who else has taken Duncan Taylor’s Systems Theory class?). Yet within this drive, this push to create, is also a deep fear of what will happen if we do not. The warzone in my dream mirrored the violence we are committing on the Earth, and we, as part of the Earth, are committing on ourselves. People who are on the front lines of climate change research, or environmental refugees who have lost their homeland, would probably agree with this feverpitch- it’s a war out there. Not just ‘against’ climate change, but also to somehow acknowledge, treat, and heal results of our unsustainable culture which has infected the world.
I am writing this to acknowledge this conflict. I know I feel it, do you feel it? Yeah, of course, it could just be I have been spending too much time focused on the dark side of Environmental Studies, but sometimes I want to scream. Is it enough? Will it ever be enough? So much of this healing work is volunteer and ‘hobby’ status, or requires one to first be independently wealthy. This work is incredibly important, perhaps the most important, beautiful, and humanistic work I can think of, yet I yearn for something that would give the current system a clear wake up call, and something that could support these people who care so much with the necessities of life: air, water, food, homes, community, health, purpose, and yes, money. How? Well one thought: eventually these permaculture buildings will be so energy efficient, and loaded with so many energy capturing systems, that energy companies will be purchasing electricity from us. In fact, thats exactly how Ann and Gord keep their energy bill down. Yet, even if we had 20 Ann and Gords, 100 Ann and Gords, with the current growth rate of our population and the average energy consumption rate per capita increasing…. somethings got to give.
This is when the internal warzone kicks into high gear, and when I need to remind myself to keep breathing and chill out on the apocalypse thought loops. Some days I want to exempt myself from this struggle, from having to attempt to answer these questions with a lifetime of work that may fail- the challenges seem insurmountable. It would be so much easier to stop caring, keep my head down, get back to my studies, and let more important people worry about these big problems. Its not appropriate to be so raw, to be so preoccupied, or to assume such responsibility.
It’s safer to leave these thoughts the way they are, within my mind.
But I think they’re in your mind too.
Side note: quote from Is it me or is it capitalism:
“Take environment degradation. Dr. Samuels says depression is often caused by feeling guilt when we hurt someone we love. We love the planet, and as we’re bombarded with images of its imminent demise—dying polar bears, mass migration, catastrophic oil spills—we may take upon ourselves the responsibility for having damaged it. Neoliberal environmental ideology pins responsibility on us as individuals who should be using locally fermented lip balm (hah), rather than on the CEO of Exxon.”
by Mike Graeme
JOIN US. Join the PermaCULT. I mean, what are you up to
over there in that spiral garden of yours?
Wanna share observations of the mc2 flows,
or the weather yo-yos,
the bloomings and croonings
of red currents and swallows—
any thoughts on harvesting their poopings?
How ’bout the bacterial-root communions
and orbiting nutrients of mycorrhizal systems,
in the bio-charred cosmic expanse of the soil…
Hushhhh, do you care to be quiet?
We’re worshipping the zero-mile diet!
Just razzin’, but come, join our sit spot if ya like
and revel in the story steeping deep within the silence.
Watch the plot’s succession in this particular forest setting:
the phenological foreshadowings—Suspense!
Sneaky tropic character developments;
the resolution of external conflicts using eco-sensible arrangements.
Shall we scorn the industrial system’s limited mono-corn omniscience
and cheer on the superhero pollinating protagonists?
Rose-Hip-Hooray! And hot damn check that bio-stratagem,
that ancient epiphany of capacious resilience.
What supple, subtle mysteries,
what double, shuffled functions,
what truffled, potluck luncheons,
what a cute clover coupled with that kale bunch—
let’s stick some in our cob oven and call it munch.
“Hey are you trying to convert me?”
No ma’am, just to alert you:
sustainability is in sight! Did you know
you can convert your lawn into a garden paradise?
“I work three jobs, and just think of the weeds and spider mites,
I’ll never win that war, Christ, I’d get totally wiped!”
Oh but hey did you know you can convert a slug plight into a duck’s delight?
“Oh hermmm, no I hadn’t the slightest… like giving alms to wildlife instead of pesticides?”
Sure! And to the people, too, pass on the surplus! Plus, once your design’s equipped
share the tips of your slip-ups, and recline, splay your lips
under the plum trees and the nut palms,
enjoy sipping yum sweet drippings
from beneath the evening fronds.
Scuse meh, I gotta take this one. Hello?
“Hunnyyy, where’d ya get dat compost, dat sh*ts dank yo.”
From the dumpster dear Frank,
just cranked the lid, bore the stank;
hummus be like a nitrogen bank.
“You’re a darling sonny, thanks! I’ll write you from Burbank,
I’m taking a course there on roof water catchment tanks.”
Sorry, that was my Great Aunt Frances. Where were we
with our permaculture prose. Did you say something?
“M, yes, so does this permi-thing have any ethics it attempts to impose?”
Well, sure, there are three, but they’re simple and close,
at least in my view, to the tastes of the human soul.
Take for instance Albert Schweitzer, who said, “Ethics is nothing else
than reverence for life”: to selflessly offer ourselves
“helpfully to all life in need of help.”
So here we start with Ethic One, which is “Care for the Earth,”
the planet as provider of invaluable worth.
Without her river veins, specie cells and forest lungs,
and of course her damp domains of holy decomposing dung,
life goes sour, death comes to the flowers,
and as said Gary Snyder: extinction means no birth.
Hey, have a pawpaw, quit your snore, are you ready for more?
“Why sure, as so far these don’t seem too much a chore.”
Precisely! So up next we have Ethic Número Dos:
This is the birch, there is the beetle, open the doors,
“Care for the People.” Shut the doors, hear them say,
“Let’s support one another in an equitable way.”
OK, #3, you still with me?
“Eh, mhm, yes, but I sort of have to pee.”
Oh wonderful, can I use your resources, follow me.
Now last of all is that ethic which is known as “Fair Share.”
which reminds us earth is finite—ultimately waste goes nowhere.
It’s a system that is cyclical, reciprocal, and closed.
Debunked is that degenerative ideology of “continuous growth.”
As a dendritic pattern like the ones under your skin,
the blood must ease evenly to everyone and everything
If not, and there’s a clog, or a spot that is debarred
then a finger might fall off; a landfilled landscape will get scarred.
And obstructing structures more invisible exist socially, as well:
colonialism; white privilege; racist frameworks; the “dominant sperm cell.”
Yet with permaculture we can transform these systemic violent underpinnings
while simultaneously strengthening our sustainability movements!
“Alright, wow, but how, how on (invaluable) earth,
can I put these into practice, get perma-savvy henceforth?”
I thought you’d never ask,
and by George you’re halfway there!
There’s no certain order of tasks,
but rather routes uniquely learned
through permaculture principle-based trial-and-error.
Foundational to your adventure will be the twelve-fold noble path ॐ
and there are resources by the dozens to help you keep your work on track.
But for a vastly massive boost that will simultaneously introduce
you to tools as well as kin to get super jazzed-like-mindedly juiced,
I speak by recent experience and reverently endorse
your very own enrolment in a Design Certificate Course.
Well what do you say, should we live on the edge?
Should we surf the ecology, carve some swales full-fledged,
sail forth to a future for our permi-to-be kids
abundant in people-planet cooperations and polycropped corn breads?
Regeneration ripples in our wake, friends, sign the permaculture pledge!
Let’s learn together the site’s moisture, via the reeds, froggies and sedge.
Let’s ground in gratitude for the ground. Why, gather thy pigs!
Let them defecate and play in it, gleying up your pond’s wapato ledge.
Let’s slow it, spread it, sink it, let’s multi-function our hedge.
The PermaCULT needs YOU. Or more so it is thus:
the precious world’s biophysical swirls all so pressingly need US.
We are the earth’s people. And without it we are dust.
We need it. It needs you. You need you. WE need US.
Artwork by Inanna Sokil
ॐ Permaculture’s Twelve Principles:
- Observing & Interacting: How often in our agricultural ventures do we impose our plans on the ecology of a place without taking the time to listen to the enchanting tale already in the process of being written? Through observance and cooperative interaction with this story, a system can emerge that both bolsters the ecological integrity of the landscape as well as suits the needs of the envisioned food system.
- Locating Elements for Functional Interconnection: It’s like Martin Luther King, Jr said: “Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality.” Our design elements are part of this interconnected reality. So how can we locate them to facilitate right relationships in the landscape to create most efficient, lower maintenance and mutually beneficial associations?
- Choosing Elements that have Multiple Functions: A good guide in designing our permaculture systems is to favour those elements with multiple characteristics that are of benefit to us and the surrounding ecosystem. For example, what about a hedge that could be wildlife habitat, keep out grazing deer, provide nectar to hummingbirds who stop to chow a few insect pests on route, while concomitantly giving us food, medicines and flowers for our loved ones!
- Designing for Resilience: We want to make sure that our systems are resilient in the occasion of disturbance. The most essential functions, like water and food provision should be extensively reinforced with backups, which themselves should have backups (which themselves should have back-ups!). Who’s got yo back? We got yo back.
- Obtaining a Yield: As ecological systems progress, their component species produce yields, such as nutritional sustenance, building materials, carbon sequestration, etc. These yields occur at different stages in the progression and therefore through awareness and crafty planning we can create systems that offer yields at all stages of development. Whoa.
- Looking for Small-scale Intensive Solutions: If we screw up, which as humans we are all too good at (indeed we revamp our idea-lamps through our mistakes), it’s best to do so on a small-scale. This way we can learn from our slip-ups without slipping irredeemably feet-up. Also, making the most out of an intensive area allows for creating well-organized, closely-knit bliss with minimal opportunities disused or missed.
- Mimicking Nature (From Patterns to Details): The forms and, most importantly, the functions found in nature are time-honoured, testified techniques presenting valuable lessons to observers (us!). Natural patterns can thus be used for guiding and deriving the details of our designs.
- Using Biological Resources & Producing No Waste: It’s best to use biological resources rather than pollutive, non-renewable ones. Duh. Biological resources facilitate sustainable energy cycles in our system. Just like that concept of trash to treasure so too is waste a resource for another.
- Striving for Diversity: Harkening back to the notion of “designing for resilience,” diversity in a landscape gives it a greater capacity to endure in the case of disturbance or upon loss of (an) element(s). Enriching biodiversity also results in increased potential yields and increased potential for functional interconnection. Diversity good. Big love for diversity. As well, cultural and social diversity allow for increased functional interrelations of ideas, perspectives, opportunities and love.
- Solving Problems Creatively: Within the rotten fruit of a problem is the seed of its own solution. Looking beyond the symptoms, what is the core of the problem? Is there a solution that would be less labour intensive and even solve other problems simultaneously? Diggity-Ding!
- Managing Edges: The space of interface, the zone of ecotone, that place where one distinct ecological system butts up with another, is one of dynamic interplay. Depending on the context, different measures can be taken to facilitate the operations of these locales in order that they align their missions with our design visions.
- Cycling and Recycling Energy: As Bloom and Boehnlein say, “Electricity, money, time, steel, potatoes, and potentially love are all just different forms of energy from which we can benefit.” Forms of energy tend to be seen through a norms-of-society lens, meaning that our dispensable commodity culture far underestimates the multi-lifespan of a given energy—we throw it in abandon when it’s still giving offerings! Time to tie up that loose end, close the loop, and keep the energy in the dance(!), learning to benefit from these energies as they take on new structures and purpose, new cadence and jazz.
Note: “The lists of permaculture principles found in various publications range in length from four to forty” (Bloom & Boehnlein 2015:22). Therefore these are a distillation slightly adapted from: Bloom, J., & Boehnlein, D. (2015). Practical Permaculture for Home Landscapes, Your Community, and the Whole Earth. Portland, OR: Timber Press.
My, how the semester has flown by! The UVic permaculture class has been busy at work creating designs for their community partners around the city. They’ll be presenting these final designs at our Design Presentation & Celebration on March 24th! We’re so pleased to be hosting this event at Studio Robazzo in downtown Victoria. Thanks to local holistic design group Studio Robazzo for your generous sponsorship.
Thursday, March 24th
Studio Robazzo (2001-F Douglas St.)
Members of the public are welcome, please RSVP to uvicpermaculture – at – gmail – dot – com.
Solara Goldwynn is on the leading edge of the regional permaculture scene. A graduate of the UVic Environmental Studies program, she’s found her niche in North Saanich along with her partner Tayler Krawczyk and their adorable daughter Flora.
Through their company, Hatchet N’ Seed, Solara and Tayler are educating the public about edible landscapes and helping farmers increase the resiliency of their lands in a changing climate through thoughtful planning and design. Keyline water management for farms, public food forest and kitchen garden designs around Victoria, and an innovative industrial building design project with LUSH Cosmetics in Vancouver are just some of the projects they’ve been working on.
We visited Solara and Flora at their home, Wild Edge Farm. Thanks for a fantastic visit!
The peach blossoms are in full swing, the comfrey is sending up new shoots, and the raspberry canes are bursting in bright green. Time to get out of the classroom! On February 21st, the UVic permaculture class put on our boots and toured some of our region’s many noteworthy permaculture sites.
Gord and Ann Baird of Eco-Sense are leaders on Southern VI when it comes to designing regenerative lifestyles. They’ve been experimenting with bold ideas at their homestead in the Highlands for over a decade, and they’re keen to share the lessons they’ve learned along the way.
Designed to meet Living Building Challenge specifications, their gorgeous natural home built from cob (sand, clay and straw) features solar electricity and hot water, composting toilets, intricate systems for rainwater harvesting and reusing grey water, a living roof, earthen floors, and natural finishes. Several other natural buildings onsite are surrounded by impressive perennial forest gardens and annual food production zones.
Gord and Ann have also devoted much energy at the policy level, encouraging bold action as municipal councillors in the Highlands. Gord also had an important role in writing the new draft regulations for composting toilets and greywater practice in BC.