Nothing inspires me more than the idea of turning my garden into a sustainable food forest, which could potentially feed my family long after my departure to greener fields. Some years ago we shared a video of such a 300 year old family forest in Indonesia and that was just the spark I needed.
“Forest gardening is a low-maintenance sustainable plant-based food production and agroforestry system based on woodland ecosystems, incorporating fruit and nut trees, shrubs, herbs, vines and perennial vegetables which have yields directly useful to humans. Making use of companion planting, these can be intermixed to grow in a succession of layers, to build a woodland habitat.” (Wikipedia)
Grow your own family’s forest
Food foresting is a lifelong journey – and I avoid too much emphasis on the ultimate outcome, as that may well be handed over to posterity. This is one place where you hold the long-term view close to your heart and do what you can now. A labour of love makes so much sense, and feeds me at all levels. What a great balance to endless hours on the computer.
Any green office worth its salt will have a forest for respite. To look after your eyes you need to look away, rest them on green, and ‘brush’ the outlines of nature’s intricate design. This way we can all improve our eyesight, but this is a story for another day.
Nature is a grateful creature and needs very little encouragement to return to our land. Currently we enjoy one full meal per day from the ‘forest,’ which includes my lay chickens of course, and the bulk of dinner too. I met an Australian buddy, Paul Boundy, at climate training last year, who told me he does Permablitzes in Australia. Of course, like all things Permaculture (after the father Bill Mollison) this emanates from Oz too. All good things need perfect timing, and finally this is going to happen in our area.
What is a Permablitz?
“Permablitz (noun): An informal gathering involving a day on which a group of at least two people come together to achieve the following:
- create or add to edible gardens
- share skills related to permaculture and sustainable living
- build community
- have fun
Free learning in reciprocal system
Permablitzes are free events, open to the public, with free workshops, shared food, where you get some exercise and have a wonderful time. To be defined as a permablitz each event must also be preceded by a permaculture design by a designer with a Permaculture Design Certificate. The network runs on reciprocity, and in order to qualify for a permablitz you usually need to come to some first, although there can be exceptions in this case.”
Beginners are most welcome. In returning to nature and learning from her again, we are all beginners. So a bunch of us will get together at my garden on a Saturday and do a permablitz. This way we get a hands-on education and see results fast. The group moves around to various gardens and learn the craft in a collaborative way.
“Every blitz is different. But you can expect to be welcomed with a cup of tea. There will be an intro circle in which the design for the day and the ideas behind it will be explained and then we’ll get to work. There will be tasks like weeding, planting fruit trees, digging paths and swales, making vegetable beds with no-dig methods or implementing greywater systems. You’ll be shown what to do and be working with others, and there will be short workshops relating to the activities.” (Permablitz.net)
Together is so much more fun
So why would we do it this way? Starting a food forest, or a food garden, for that matter, can be a slow and lonely path, especially if you’re unsure of what you’re doing. We learn through trial and error. People ask me daily about growing food. Now we can do this together, make new friends, get some exercise – stretching and weight bearing – and form an active green community.
The first blitz was held in Melbourne in 1006. By now they have held over 160 permablitzes in the area, and others in Sydney, Adelaide, Alice Springs, Darwin, Canberra, Tasmania, Bega, the Sunshine Coast, California, Montreal, Istanbul, Jogjakarta, Bali and Uganda.
- There have been a couple in SA too, like in Mitchell’s Plain (see photos here).
- Lots more ideas can be found here.
Integrating people & place in harmony
Permaculture is a design system which helps integrate people (and their needs, habits, skills, desires, money and time) and place (the physical limitations and potentials of a site such as a backyard) in ecologically harmonious systems providing a good portion of the needs of people living there (with things like water, vegetables, fruit, and eggs). Permaculture systems work more like natural systems such as forests than industrial agriculture, requiring no artificial inputs and producing no waste.
To learn more about permaculture see as defined in Wikipedia.
There may have been many more such initiatives in the country – please send us your stories. Click here if you want to join us us in the Helderberg, or indicate your interest in the comment space beneath this story. We will be lead by local Permaculture Designer, Charl du Plessis.
Viva green revolution!
By Elma Pollard