We are in Hamilton for a few days doing some much needed catch-up on school work. The nice quick internet connection at Waikato University will also allow me to post lots (oops I mean heaps) of fabulous pictures from the Permaculture Design Course I just finished. (It is by far the quickest internet I've found in New Zealand).
Permaculture is a tricky thing to define because it encompasses so many things. But the general idea is that by looking at the world holistically, as a series of systems, we can design ways to live sustainably. Nelson has been practicing permaculture for years, and now so have I, first on our farm in New Hampshire, and then here in New Zealand. But, even though we've been doing designs, teaching classes, and growing veggies for a few years I've never taken a PDC. I figured it was about time.
My PDC was at Rainbow Valley Farm in Matakana. It is one of the most amazing places I have ever been, and is an example of a thriving permaculture farm. Trish Allen developed the farm over the past 20 years with her husband Joe Polascher, who died suddenly last February. RVF produces honey, fruit, and vegetable for sale and runs educational courses. They raise enough milk, beef, eggs, chicken, and rice to provide for the 6 people who live on the farm. And, its gorgeous. Here is Trish, and below the house she built with Joe (it has earth walls, a living roof, and a pergola with grapes they use for wine): The next 2 pictures show what a huge impact they have had on the land by practicing permaculture. These pictures show the boundary between RVF and their neighbors, who raise beef cattle: While I took the course Nelson played carpenter and was busy with all sorts of projects. Joe's tool shed made him homesick for his own tool collection. Here he is building a bench on a shavehorse. He clearly has not shaved his own face or had a haircut for a while (long hair is not a permaculture principle, but it could be). While we were at Rainbow Valley our home was a little building they call "the capsule". It is a model for quick durable housing that can be made from local materials after a natural disaster. We shared it with a few mosquitos and secadas who were hiding out from the daily torrential downpours. Our teacher, Darren, who liked to be called Dr. Doherty or Professore, had so much information that I'm still trying to digest it all. His background is in large-scale farming, a different perspective from the human-scale production I'm used to. Here he is teaching a lesson on patterns in nature in the willow circle classroom: I feel really strongly that permaculture is the best form of sustainable development out there. Helping people to understand natural systems and design with them, as opposed to against them, will allow them to become more self-sufficient. I came out of the course feeling energized and inspired by the material and all of the wonderful people. I'm ready to go to Nicaragua right this minute! (But there are a few essays I need to write first). I have a lot more to say about the PDC, but I'll leave you with one last photo of a bench from the farm: