What can happen when crazy things are allowed to happen???!

Many of us have already spoken to our time with Oliver Kellhammer… and alas I am going to, too. We can’t help it. We were all inspired! Thank you, Oliver.

tennis forest
Nature re-establishing itself on top of an abandoned tennis court

“What can happen when crazy things are allowed to happen?” Oliver asked us. He meant this about people—what can we create, how can we explore and learn, when we are given a space to experiment? An example he gave was Tempelhofer Feld, the abandoned airport, where some German men who like the sun built a reflective box to sit in. Also the commons in Vancouver that function as a park but also an art project, where people are welcome to be creative and do what they want. Oliver showed us a picture of a funky sculpture. “What the heck is that?” he said. He didn’t know, but it wouldn’t have existed if there hadn’t been a space like that for it to exist, and that was enough for him. He mentioned that we need to create autonomous zones within capitalism, places where people can be left to do their own thing.

This makes me think of nature too! What can happen when crazy things are allowed to happen? Oliver took us out to see an example: the 30-year-abandoned tennis court on the property neighbouring his. Over time, nature moved in. Dirt covered the asphalt and trees began to grow.

oliver scraping
Oliver scraping away dirt to reveal the asphalt beneath. After 30+ years, it’s now begun to crumble and break down. “There’s always something that’s going to come eat up the shit you do,” he says.

In the face of climate change, it’s easy to be discouraged by the loss of how things used to be, a big one being the loss of native ecosystems. But I hear these words again, What can happen when crazy things are allowed to happen? Oliver told us about pheasants living in urban environments, and how they’ve become more hearty and resilient than pheasants in rural settings. Or the fisher, the “weasel from hell,” and how it has reappeared and is thriving in abandoned industrial sites. “Invasive” species moving in and proving to be better suited for the climate trajectory of the future than the native species currently being valorized and prized above them. Nature cropping up in places we thought it couldn’t anymore, where it’s able to experiment and do its own thing.

Animals don’t stay the same; everything in nature is adapting. What can happen when crazy things are allowed to happen? This! This world! It’s allowing crazy things to happen! Who would have thunk that an abandoned airport could become a bird sanctuary? That a forest could begin to grow on top of an asphalt tennis court? The anthropocene is a crazy thing that we’ve (unfortunately) allowed to happen, but in a way, it is giving nature a space to experiment and get creative. But nature has always been creative; and it’s where we humans get our own creativity.

Though climate change is distressing, it’s keeping us on our toes. And all the best people, and all the best parts of nature (which is all of it, really) are turning it around and using it as a way to make crazy things happen.

tennis edges
Ferns lining the edge of the tennis court

And I think about permaculture in all of this, how it’s all about mimicking relationships found in natural ecologies and using patterns in nature when problem solving and designing. And I have hope that the craziest thing of all will happen—we will find a way to remediate what we’ve done to the earth, even if not in the way we might expect. Nature is getting super crazy and creative as it looks to adapt to the changing world, and maybe we need to look more closely at these patterns, ones that perhaps we used to view as unfortunate fingers pointing out all we’ve done to harm the earth. Instead, we can learn from them… the problem is the solution after all.


I always thought it was spelled “jube jube”

Ziziphus jujuba

The jujube tree is a deciduous, shrub-like plant with spiky thorns, shiny green leaves, and little red fruits. It is also called the Tsao, Chinese date, red date, or Indian date. The jujube has been cultivated in China for over 4,000 years, moving since into the Middle East, Russia, northern Africa, southern Europe, and southwestern United States. The tree does well in southern Australia since they can withstand salt and other intense weathers. It also does well in Madagascar, too well in fact, since it has been determined an invasive species. Currently, there are over 400 different cultivars.

jujube botanical

The flowers of the jujube are white or greenish yellow with a lovely fragrance that, in the Himalayas and Karakoram, is said to make teenagers fall in love. Boys will place stems with the flowers in their hats to make the ladies swoon.

The trees can form spiky suckers that rise up from their roots, often many metres away from their mother plant. If left unpruned, these suckers can form a thicket, which could be helpful if you want to create a windbreak or hedge, but not so helpful if they’re sneaking up into your market garden.


Alas, the fruits of the jujube tree are not those sugary confectioneries one can find at the movie theatre or Bulk Barn. Rather. Rather, they are small drupes, ranging from round or elongated, to cherry or plum-sized. The skin of immature fruits is green and the inner flesh is white. The fruit can be eaten at this stage, with a sweet, crisp taste resembling an apple. As the fruit ripens, it becomes yellow with brown spots. Soon, the spots take over the whole fruit becomes a warm brownish red colour. Left to further ripen, the fruit shrivels and wrinkles, causing it to taste similar to a date.The fruit does not ripen when taken off the tree, and fresh fruit will only keep for about a week. However when dried it can last for months! Harvesting time is from mid summer to autumn, but the jujube tree flowers throughout the whole growing season, which means fruit is often always available.


The jujube tree prefers warm and sunny habitats. It is very low maintenance; as long as it has enough heat and sun, it does well without any special care. This is a good tree to keep in mind for upcoming climate changes, since it is highly drought tolerant and is able to withstand extremely high summer temperatures. However, though the jujube can survive in the heat, adequate watering is still needed in order to have a quality fruit crop.

The tree goes dormant in winter, and is able to avoid the threat of late spring frosts destroying its crop. This is due to delayed budding; the tree knows somehow when any chance of cold weather has passed before it produces flowers. The jujube also does not have any series risk of insects, disease, or other pests. Some of the better varieties for propagation are Sugar Cane, Li, Sherwood, Chico, and Honey Jar.

Jujube fruit contains 20 times more vitamin C than citrus fruit, thus it has been used for a long time to make tea and candies for sore throats and coughs.


This is also where those jujube candies are said to originate. The candy used to contain jujube juice, which is perhaps why they became popular in movie theatre, so audience members wouldn’t cough during the film and disturb others. Since however, the jujube juice has been removed.

Medicinal studies have shown that jujube has the potential to treat anemia, lower blood pressure, reverse liver disease, and inhibit the growth of tumour cells. The extract can help diminish wrinkles and treat sunburns. This could be because jujubes contain 18 of the most vital amino acids, which help aid in wound healing.

Jujube has been used in traditional Chinese medicine to help with anxiety and insomnia, since two of the eight flavonoids present are spinosin and swertish, both of which have sedative properties. Jujubes also contain phenol puerarin, which is beneficial for keeping cholesterol levels in check, helping to lower the chances of cardiovascular disease.

If all that’s not enough, the jujube can improve muscle strength and stamina. It can give energy without causing nervousness. It can counteract allergic reaction, leukemia, and other mutations. It can remedy hypertonia and nephritis. There has been much modern medical research about jujube, two of which showed that it works to treat cancer and HIV. The leaves are an astringent and can be used to promote hair growth. They can also suppress the ability to recognize sweet tastes. This is only a small list of the benefits of jujube. There doesn’t seem to be much that it can’t treat!

jujube mooncake
Jujube mooncake

To enjoy the fruit and get its many benefits, you can eat it fresh or dried, pickled or smoked, cooked and baked (as a replacement for apples or dates in recipes), candied, in jams or jellies, tea, alcohol (from the fermented fruit pulp), preserved, and vinegared.

Jujube tea


In terms of a permaculture plant, jujube also has many uses. Its wood is very strong and hard with close-grains, ideal for woodworking. It can also be easily coppiced and is great for firewood and charcoal. It is a good shade tree, growing up to 40 feet tall, and helps with erosion control. Since the flowers smell so sweet, it is a good nectar plant, particularly for bees. The bark and roots can be used in dyeing and tanning. And those pesky spiky suckers are perfect for creating a windbreak or hedge!



“Permaculture Plants: Jujube.” Temperate Climate Permaculture. Accessed from http://tcpermaculture.blogspot.ca/2012/01/permaculture-plants-jujube.html

“What Are Jujubes Good For?” Food Facts. Accessed from http://foodfacts.mercola.com/jujubes.html

“Jujube.” California Rare Fruit Growers, Inc. Accessed from https://www.crfg.org/pubs/ff/jujube.html

“Medicinal Action and Uses of Jujube Fruit.” MDidea. Accessed from https://www.mdidea.com/products/new/new03004.html

“Jujubes.” The Food Forest. Accessed from http://www.foodforest.com.au/fact-sheets/fruit-and-nut-trees/jujubes/

hey you, haiku

haiku whole
Haikus on the fridge, featuring some profound magnet poems

Just for a fun blog post, I thought I’d share the haikus everyone wrote for my “Each One Teach One.” We went out to the Swim Rocks as the sun was setting and I think we all had a lovely time.

Here they are:

Here we are blooming,
each a star, unassuming
close eyes, blink, tune in

Bright fractals repeat
dancing on soles of our feet:
the deep lake-heartbeat

Tiny faeries dance,
spinning, giggling in trance,
a flowered romance

As we rise and fall
The earth stands still for it all
Silent Confidence

From the trees comes peace
It is whispered in the wind
and heard by our hearts

To jump in head first
or wade, the lake doesn’t mind
either way it loves

The sun is dancing
over the shimmering lake.
Dusk tranquility.

Smooth glass, lily pad
I could wear it as a hat
But I don’t want to

Still and yet so calm
A sheet of glass radiates
throughout the evening

haiku side 1

The lake that ripples
shadows reaching from the land
setting down the sun

dancing swallows sing
golden sun falls over lake
breathe amongst new friends

tiny blossom perched
among giants set in moss
subtleties abound

seeds from grassy tufts
taller, yet smaller than me
barely holding on

a small round mirror
floating gently in ripples
lake life catching sun

The sun splits the sky
open like a peach, the first
sweet taste of sun set

Dear Love, I see you
In the roses and orchids
You’re not looking back

haiku side 2

The Tales of Meat Punk Max

On Tuesday we journeyed to Manson’s Lagoon to meet with Max and his partner Heidi. They shared with us their way of living with the land, their hunting practices, and how they have worked to become 95% self-sustaining. Their talk was thought provoking in many ways, but what struck me most was when Max prefaced by saying that he can’t give us answers. Instead, he can tell us a story—of his experiences and the perspectives he’s gained from them.

This is an instinct, I think. Intuitive. When we seek to explain the world and ourselves, it is usually in the form of a story—indigenous legends, religious texts, Greek and Roman mythologies. We use metaphors and analogies to make ideas more accessible and engaging—math word problems, Aesop’s fables, the characters of the constellations. When fellow student Thomas taught us how to tie knots during an “Each One Teach One,” we all better understood what to do when the instructions became a story—the rabbit goes out of the hole, around the tree, under its tail, etc.

Gathered around to hear Max’s stories

The more I practice my observing skills, the more I see the world is full of stories. And the more I learn about permaculture, the more it all becomes a collection of stories, rather than a dry textbook of figures, numbers, and theories.

A favourite example is phenology: Brent knowing to harvest the hazelnuts because the squirrels and stellar’s jays have arrived; Adam watching for when the lilacs bloom, because that is when to plant the peas; my own home in the Okanagan, and that when the meadowlark begins to sing, I know spring will be here to stay.

In A Biodynamic Farm, Hugh Lovel defines the word educate as a “process of awakening knowledge, skill, and understanding,” which I believe is what stories tend to do. They are not a way of inputting data. Though they don’t always provide clear-cut answers, they are still able to awaken new knowledge and understanding in an individual, especially since we all perceive stories in different ways. I think this adds to the richness of the world. There is the tendency to be searching for answers, but perhaps switching to a search for stories could prove to be more insightful. Each individual has a story to share. Every part of nature has a story to tell. And each are all part of the big story that is the world we inhabit together.

Permaculture doesn’t claim to have all the answers, but it offers us examples and experiences of it in practice. We can learn more deeply and fully from these (rather than from something like statistics) because we understand stories on a more intuitive level. They stick in our minds. They make sense. They engage us and give a greater and more lasting impact. They are often something we never forget, especially when we begin to create our own to share.

max clam
One of the clams Max showed us how to harvest from Manson’s Lagoon. Each individual is allowed to harvest 70 clams per day. Max and Heidi harvest far less, but are still able to enjoy a meal a week.