Posted by & filed under Courses/Workshops.

Geoff Lawton above Zaytuna Farm
All photographs © Craig Mackintosh

General information

The Permaculture Research Institute Zaytuna Farm is now offering practical hands on learning, in the field experience. This Certificate is replacing the 10-week Internship Program.

A total of 24 successful applicants will learn on the job within their chosen section for 4 weeks starting on the 1st Monday of every month (beginning Monday 5 January, 2015).

The Specialised Work Experience Certificate positions and number of people per month are as follows (click the links for more info on each):

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Posted by & filed under Commercial Farm Projects, Global Warming/Climate Change, Soil Conservation, Soil Rehabilitation, Structure.

“Mechanized labour” in the form of earthmoving equipment, tractors, and the myriad attachments that may be utilized in conjunction with their use provide us with an amazing opportunity to perform a great deal of beneficial work. They help in rapidly establishing efforts to reverse land degradation and desertification on a grand scale. It’s an immense job requiring considerable work input. Given the urgent importance of undertaking this activity, finding the right tools becomes hugely critical.

Many of us who spend lots of time thinking about this topic are always trying to identify methods, techniques, and strategies to advance the earth repair/ecosystem restoration/regenerative design agenda as broadly and effectively as possible. There were a couple of ideas I wanted to quickly mention here which have piqued my interest and may prove to be useful to others working in a similar vein.

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Posted by & filed under Commercial Farm Projects.

Where and how to get free labor, what to expect from volunteers, and why it’s totally worth it.

A table full of happy volunteers

It was less than a year ago that my wife Emma and I set out on journey through Central and South America, our plan being to volunteer on farms the whole way. We’d toyed with gardening here and there, spent some time running the hotel side of an avocado farm called Earth Lodge, but our interests in growing our own food, becoming more sustainable people, and living less job-oriented lives had reached a pinnacle. We wanted something different, and gardening seem to make sense.

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Posted by & filed under Building, Compost, Soil Conservation, Soil Erosion & Contamination, Soil Rehabilitation, Waste Systems & Recycling, Water Contaminaton & Loss.

I just read a post on composting toilets here on the PRI site and remembered that I never posted about the composting toilets I made last year (for various projects) based on a similar principles, but a distinct design. Below I offer a few words of introduction and then post photos of the building process with instructions.

As part of various projects that I’ve helped organise over the last six months, I self-appointed myself the maker of composting toilets. Some people might have been happy to delegate such a job to others, but I wasn’t that generous to my collaborators. I wanted the job for myself, and in this post I briefly describe the process with pictures and a few notes.

Before getting to the building process, let me tell you why I find composting toilets interesting and important. First of all, in a world where two and half billion people still lack regular access to clean drinking water, defecating into drinking quality water strikes me as the height of insanity. Obviously, most of us have no existing alternative. But that doesn’t change the insanity of our current system. Composting toilets provide an alternative. Not only do they avoid the need to defecate into drinking quality water, they require almost no water at all.

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Posted by & filed under General.

We live in a world of unseeable beauty, so subtle and delicate that it is imperceptible to the human eye. To bring this invisible world to light, filmmaker Louie Schwartzberg bends the boundaries of time and space with high-speed cameras, time lapses and microscopes. At TED2014, he shares highlights from his latest project, a 3D film titled "Mysteries of the Unseen World," which slows down, speeds up, and magnifies the astonishing wonders of nature.

Posted by & filed under Courses/Workshops.

Geoff Lawton, the internationally beloved permaculture teacher, is headed to Calgary to film our site, so we couldn’t help but ask him to teach for us. Join us for this exclusive opportunity to learn from Geoff himself in this 3 hour session: “Establishing a Food Forest”!

What: Establishing a Food Forest 3-hour session with Geoff Lawton
August 14, 2014, 6:00 – 9:00 pm
Where: SAIT Campus – MacDonald Hall (in the Stan Grad Lounge/Heritage Hall Bldg), 1301 – 16th Ave NW Calgary
Cost: $75

Note: Tickets will be sold at the door if still available, however, we recommend purchasing in advance because space is limited.

When once-in-a-lifetime opportunities arrive, we believe in sharing them…. So – thanks to a breathtaking honour for Verge – you’re invited to hear Geoff Lawton speak live, in person, on “Establishing a Food Forest” …for a bare-minimal fee!

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Posted by & filed under Food Forests, Food Plants - Annual, Food Plants - Perennial, Medicinal Plants.

Leaves of a different cut

I love the tropics as a place for permaculture, specifically the ability to grow tropical fruits and the capability to plant stuff year round. I like the interplay between rainy and dry season, the way things get incredibly green and grow uncontrollably in the wettest of times, and all that fodder for composting when things get parched. Still, living here is not without its sacrifices.

One of the major issues I’ve run into is what can’t grow here because of the heat. When things can’t grow in cooler climates, people have the option of greenhouses, but I’ve not really discovered a good way for cooling the tropical climate down for some rhubarb or broccoli. And, the one that stings the deepest — especially for a salad-loving vegan such as myself — is the lettuce.

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Posted by & filed under Food Forests, Trees.

I’ve always been a bit confused about proper pruning techniques. You’ve got your winter pruning for spur-bearing fruit trees, winter pruning for tip-bearing fruit trees and summer pruning to keep your trees at a manageable height.

There are some people like Sepp Holzer and Masanobu Fukuoka that even advocate against pruning at all, although they both specify that your unpruned fruit trees need to be propagated and managed in a certain way from the start.

With that said, I’ve seen some old, overgrown and unproductive fruit trees brought back to production with just a few years of good pruning management.

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Posted by & filed under Commercial Farm Projects, Education Centres.

I was contacted back in October last year for an initial consult, on pre-property purchase in Tatong, Victoria, Australia. Since then the project has come along in leaps and bounds. Below is a photolog of the events, trials and tribulations of the project this far. My first job after purchase was to secure the dam and install what will become a secondary spillway, but for now it’s the primary spillway — it’s as simple as putting the next spillway in 50mm lower than the current one which is set at 1m below the dam wall height, giving us a 1m freeboard. I call it the insurance policy!

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Posted by & filed under Consumerism, Economics, Society.

The Natural Capital Agenda looks like an answer to the environmental crisis. But it’s a delusion.

Below is the transcript of George Monbiot’s SPERI Annual Lecture, hosted by the Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Sheffield. The lecture was delivered without notes, and transcribed afterwards, so a few small changes have been made for readability, but it’s more or less as given. You can watch the video at bottom.

“Ladies and gentlemen, we are witnessing the death of both the theory and the practice of neoliberal capitalism. This is the doctrine which holds that the market can resolve almost all social, economic and political problems. It holds that people are best served, and their prosperity is best advanced, by the minimum of intervention and spending by the state. It contends that we can maximise the general social interest through the pursuit of self-interest.

To illustrate the spectacular crashing and burning of that doctrine, let me tell you the sad tale of a man called Matt Ridley. He was a columnist on the Daily Telegraph until he became – and I think this tells us something about the meritocratic pretensions of neoliberalism – the hereditary Chair of Northern Rock: a building society that became a bank. His father had been Chair of Northern Rock before him, which appears to have been his sole qualification.

While he was a columnist on the Telegraph he wrote the following:

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Posted by & filed under Consumerism, GMOs, Health & Disease.

We know, we know, Starbucks is convenient, I mean come on, they are everywhere! Starbucks has tasty ways to trick up your caffeine fix, various forms of sugary treats, and even some organic options, to accompany that grande latte, and Starbucks even offers free wifi!

But did you know Starbucks also uses 93 million gallons of milk per year from cows fed on GMO soy and corn? 93 million. Think about that number. That’s A LOT of GMO corn and soy. When you consider that only two percent of genetically modified (GM) soy is directly consumed by people, you start to understand the vast business GM animal feed has become worldwide.

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