formidable vegetable sound system

Posted by & filed under Community, General.

The story of the project.

Music is by far the raddest way to learn stuff! Our band Formidable Vegetable Sound System has been touring around the world for the past three years singing songs about permaculture (ecological design) at some of the biggest festivals on the planet (Glastonbury, BOOM) in the hope of inspiring people to start growing food everywhere and to take better care of the planet.

After releasing two albums ( Permaculture: A Rhymer’s Manual (2013) and Radish Beets (2015)), we’ve decided that the people who most need to learn about this stuff are KIDS! Therefore, we’ve decided to gear a brand new bunch of electroswing/funk ukulele tunes around getting ideas about growing good food, good vibes and good fun across to children (and adults too!)

With song titles like “Break It Down (Compost Song)”, “Free Range” and “Kimchi!” we’re hoping to make a lighthearted, inspiring album aligned with the permaculture ethics of “Earth Care, People Care and Fair Share” combining practical nuts ‘n bolts advice with deeper ideological lessons such as seeing oneself as a part of the whole.

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Posted by & filed under General.

Bill Mollison believes that today, “we are the worlds most ignorant people and society, whereas former societies were well informed through song and patterns”. Ironically, this was one of the first things I remember learning in my PDC and from the very beginning I started getting right into the ideas of pattern understanding and non-linear systems of learning. When we were given the task of preparing a ‘non-linear’ class presentation on a permaculture principle, my friend Katrina coaxed me into writing a song on my ukulele. Still turned off by the idea of being a musician and somewhat horrified at the notion of writing some inevitably daggy song about permaculture, I resisted, but eventually after enough pressuring and threats of “no dinner until you write the chorus”, I came up with a little ditty called “No Such Thing As Waste”. The class was singing it for the rest of semester. We never forgot that permaculture principle!

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Posted by & filed under Courses/Workshops, Education, Events, Resources & News, General.

We were in the process of organizing our next PDC and searching for an appropriate site. So we sent our talent scout Ignazio, Italian agronomist and founder of the association Laboratorio di Permacultura Mediterranea, on an exploration tour in Salento. Ever heard about this place?

Maybe I should start by saying that this is the part of Puglia region commonly known as “the heel of the Italian boot” and that permaculture courses have never taken place here before! This is actually the main reason why Ignazio and Rhamis Kent strong-willed decided to run a course there.

One day Ignazio jumped on his good old motorbike, a 1985 Ducati of course, and drove all across Salento searching for the right location to host our next class. This undertaking was all but easy, since Ignazio wanted to find not only a nice, suitable location but a whole context meeting the values and principles of the course itself. Two were the fundamental requirements: the respect and love not only for nature, but also for people.

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DR Ecolodge, Kilifi - Copy

Posted by & filed under Community, Courses/Workshops, Events, Resources & News, General.

It’s no secret that Tom and Romain Mari have totally transformed Kilifi. With their tireless enthusiasm, style, passion, sweat and tears they have managed to create the coolest place on the East African Coastline: Distant Relatives Eco lodge and Backpackers. When we first met them in 2011, we kicked it off immediately; their visions of creating a masterpiece that would re-ignite a sense of global community and a positive scene is certainly an understatement of their efforts so far. That’s right, D.R. has become a global icon for sustainability, togetherness, a collective of good music, and a slice of paradise all crammed into 3 coastal acres of forested production gardens, eco-accommodation, entertainment, and more.

Having rebuilt the majority of the infrastructure at DR Tom and Romain have managed to up cycle and renovate the place using locally sourced material and recycled materials from the beach. During the rainy seasons, they use all their roofs for rainwater harvesting to supply the kitchen, the gardens, the showers, and some of the pool with water. They have also built 7 spacious and comfortable bandas using an ancient Mexican cobbing technique, each fitted with composting toilets to further add to the ecological design system they employ. Further to that, the property has an abundance of poultry, pigs, guinea pigs, ducks, and guinea fowl which all make their contributions to the kitchen. Since a few months, schools and university students as well as guests have started joining Distant Relatives Eco-Tours – learning about sustainability, permaculture, eco-building and all kinds of interesting things!

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Posted by & filed under Economics, Events, Resources & News, General, News.

As countries prepare for the upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21) on November 2015, the United States has made tremendous steps to fight global warming, such as signing bilateral agreements with China and Brazil to reduce their CO2 emissions. The U.S. has also made big changes at the domestic level, especially in the use of renewable sources in its electricity sector.

To promote the use of more cleaner and sustainable energy sources in the electricity system, the U.S. government created the Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC), a 30% federal tax credit for the installation of solar systems in the U.S. The ITC credit is given to both residential and commercial customers that install solar panels (primarily photovoltaics [PV]) in their business or homes to generate electricity. Established in 2005 (although regulation were not in placed until 2010), the tax credit has given the American solar sector a large boost, with the number of megawatt (mW) PV installations increasing over 4,000% from 2006 to 2013.

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Clear Sky. Photo by David Ashwanden

Posted by & filed under General.

It brings us what we need and takes away what we don’t need; helps to cool us when we are hot and warm us when we are cold; it’s inside us and around us – in fact, we are constantly moving through it, and there are not many places on the planet where it is totally absent. Yet this most basically necessary of elements, the air, is also the place where we release our poisons and fumes. Suggestions abound about how we can achieve cleaner air; but perhaps before we embark on anything practical we need to consider why we relate to the air the way we do. For until we can understand our interaction with our atmosphere, we may not necessarily be able to do anything useful to maintain its ability to sustain us.

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Posted by & filed under Events, Resources & News, General.

Growing organic vegetables commercially for over 30 years, Charles Dowding has developed a no-dig method of cultivation for temperate climate gardening.

Charles and his partner Steph Hafferty introduces us to Homeacres, his 1/4 acre market garden. Now supplying year-round salad and fresh vegetables for local restaurants, Charles took just one winter to transform it from weedy pasture using mulch and no-dig gardening.

No-dig gardening is a technique regularly used in permaculture. The use of a mulch on top of the soil mimics the leaves that drop from the trees, which then rot and are drawn into the soil by worms and microbes. In nature, soil is rarely disturbed, with all work being done by the bacteria and creatures in the soil. Charles explains the importance of soil, the beneficial bacteria and how soil disturbance reduces nutrients and affects the microbes good work.

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Posted by & filed under General, Plant Systems, Plants.


What a Pile of Mulch (Courtesy of Joe Hoover)

Mulching: We know we’ve got to do. Nothing else makes quite so much sense. It drastically lessens the water needed for growing plants, cutting the quantity easily in half and often much better than that. It feeds our plants by breaking down into fertile composted materials right where it’s needed. It protects the soil life, helps to prevent erosion and stops the compacting effects of rain. In the winter, it’s warm, and in the summer, it wards off evaporation. Oh, yes, and it’s thwarting off weeds while doing all of this. It’s just an amazing element for any garden.

What’s more is that mulch can come from so many sources. We can use cardboard boxes, old newspapers, shredded documents and other paper-based garbage. We can use the fallen leaves, grass clippings, pulled weeds, and pruned branches, often found already bagged up right at the end of the neighbors driveway. We can use bark or wood shavings or sawdust. We can use the greens from our veggies, all those carrot tops and discarded out leaves of cabbage. Straw. Hay. Pine needles. Nut shells. Rocks, even.

However, wouldn’t life just be a lot simpler if much of our mulch came right from the garden? I must confess straight out of the gate that I am a habitual bed maker: Sheet mulch beds, hugelkultur, raised beds, sunken beds, herb spirals, magic circles, swale berms, double-reach… Give me a space that ain’t a path, and in all likelihood, I’ll soon be deciding on what kind of bed will work best there. In all honesty, I often find myself in search of, sometimes short of, good mulching material. So, cultivating quality mulch just seems a good idea.

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Posted by & filed under Animals, General.

Bees are the most incredible insects on the planet. They have been buzzing around for hundreds of thousands of years, and are responsible for the pollination of as much as 80 percent of flowering plants. In turn, at least 30 percent of the world’s food supply is reliant on pollination, which makes us highly reliant on bees.

On the downside, too many people don’t appreciate the value of bees, plus right now, billions of honeybees are dying all over the world. This doesn’t only affect honey supply, it affects our food chain; and the dire warning is that if we don’t save the world’s bees, we can expect the demise of humanity.

Of course bees make honey, which is considered by many to be a top survival food with incredible medicinal value. Described as a broad-spectrum healer, raw, organic, unfiltered, non-irradiated honey is a top nutrient packed with antioxidants, vitamins, probiotics and minerals. Although sugar-rich, raw organic honey can lower serum cholesterol and won’t spike blood-sugar levels. Local honey has also be shown, by some research studies, to help build immunity to seasonal allergies, by providing small quantities of the allergen (pollen for instance) in the same way as a vaccine does. This means that if you either have beehives that produce local honey, or source honey from hives close to where you live, you can help to protect your health.

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Posted by & filed under Community, Design, Food & Food Support Systems, General, People Systems, Plants.

The example of the Hawley Hamlet | Tim Rinne | TEDxLincoln

We grow enough lawn to cover the state of Ohio.

This talk was given at a local TEDx event, produced independently of the TED Conferences. Since 2010, Tim and his wife have gone from a measly little tomato patch to six tenths of an acre (the equivalent of roughly 65 yards of a football field). They have planted over 50 fruit and nut trees and two dozen berry beds, set up two chicken coops and two beehives, and now have 20 neighbors actively participating in what they call their hamlet.

They are growing food in the “Hawley Hamlet.” But equally important, they’re growing community. And that’s a good thing. Because given the risks climate change and extreme weather are posing to our environment, we’re going to need all the food and community the city can produce.

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Posted by & filed under Community, Consumerism, Economics, Food & Food Support Systems, General, Population, Society.

Greece is in financial crisis. That’s unlikely to be news to anyone after updates on the Greek economy have been gracing our television screens, newspapers and radios for the last month or so. But most of the reports focus on the impact that the financial crisis and the third bailout programme will have on the country’s banking system and on its large, medium and small business; rather than taking a closer look at how it is affecting the people of Greece.

The government are being forced by the EU to accept new austerity plans which will see further cuts in public spending and these will have a direct impact on everybody living in Greece today. If businesses cannot function normally then they cannot afford to pay employees or order replacement stock, which again has a direct impact on the lives of ordinary people living in Greece. In the weeks and months ahead, unemployment will only continue to rise and the situation in Greece will have to get worse before it gets better.

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