Even studying online, students get to answer the usual get-to-know-you classroom questions.
Q. What you want to achieve by doing this course?
Initially, from this course I want to achieve: greater familiarity and understanding about permaculture; how to observe; some proficiency in permaculture design; how to promote and apply permaculture ethics and principles personally, locally and globally.
One of the first of Bill Mollison’s key insights I read was:
“Permaculture is a philosophy of working with rather than against nature; of protracted and thoughtful observation rather than protracted and thoughtless action…”
Which speaks to a bothersome personal consideration… pragmatic motivation behind our move from city working life to a simple, creative rural village lifestyle: health. Aged in our mid 50’s and mid 60’s respectively both myself and G.O. husband have orthopaedic issues which limit the type & duration of physical activities we comfortably manage. We do what we want to do but we need to work smarter not harder.
Practically, from this course I would like achieve an improvement to our property’s water strategy, accomplish more productive use of the property, and ultimately realise a permaculture design across the entire property.
Since 2011 I’ve been utilising various social media platforms; a member of online, blogging, Instagram and Facebook communities, sharing thoughts, dreams, ideas, information, inspiration and our journey. The manifesto of my personal blog @daleleelife101 is Live Simple Home Made Grown Local Creative Better.
A long-time supporter of local and farmers markets, after considerable deliberation whether to participate in a selling capacity while despairing of hyper-consumerism, I’ve recently decided to take @daleleelife101 into the real world in the form of a much needed stallholder at our local village markets, primarily to support the community but also as a tangible means to walk my talk… I would like to achieve from this course a productive permaculture garden that contributes useful and inspirational garden produce and seeds excess to our household needs.
Personally, from this course I would like to expand my scope, to become a permaculture advocate.
Foremost, by studying and adopting permaculture practices I aim to follow Mahatma Gandhi’s advice: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”
“If you give up on trying to change larger structures and just go off on what some would say is a personal indulgence or being a survivalist, it can be seen as incredibly negative or pessimistic. But the other way to think of it is this: through manifesting the way we live and acting as if it’s normal, you’re defending yourself against depression and dysfunction, but you’re also providing a model that others can copy. And that is absolutely about bringing large-scale change…” is reassuring testimony from David Holmgren.
What is permaculture, you ask, as I did and found out it wasn’t what I thought it was, but more.
Permaculture is a word originally coined by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren in the mid 1970’s to describe an “integrated, evolving system of perennial or self-perpetuating plant and animal species useful to man.” ~ holmgren.com.au
However, befittingly, permaculture and therefore the definition of what it is, is ever evolving.
A fortnight ago I began my year of online Certificate IV Permaculture study via Tafe NSW Digital. Studying online, I discovered, involves a lot of writing. Fortunately, I like writing, and it’s one of the things I missed having time to do over the past couple of years while I commuted to and attended face-to-face horticulture classes at Tafe NSW. During that time I shared snippets of my horticulture studies experience pictorially via daily Instagram posts.
This year of study, I think, might lend itself to some blog posts… if you would like to follow my permaculture journey.
The first get-to-know-you assignment question…
Q. What attracts you to permaculture? You can also mention how you found out about permaculture and what permaculture experience you have had if you like.
A. After living and working fulltime in Sydney for the decade it took us -husband and me- to be financially prepared, living as sustainably as you can in a rented one bedroom apartment in a concrete neighbourhood immediately adjacent to a train line in the inner-west outskirts of the inner-city 2.5 kms from the CBD… keeping the faith by diligently supporting farmers markets and practising living lightly, connecting with and being informed and inspired by many like-minded people, travelling back and forth -1000 km roundtrip- on public holiday long weekends and summer vacations to our small residential property in a rural village on the Mid North/Coffs Coast… three and a half years ago we tree-changed to live there fulltime with the intention of being as self-reliant as possible.
After taking a holiday break when we travelled around Australia in 2016, I began studying fulltime in 2017 while looking for a new direction; following a dream to live simply, creatively, have a garden, and study horticulture but unsure where the direction would lead me.
I completed Certificate II Horticulture in June 2019, Certificate III Production Horticulture in 2018 and Certificate III Horticulture in 2017 at Tafe NSW, Coffs Harbour Education Campus.
A long-time follower of online media: websites; e-newsletters; social media; any sort of information and communication, I had gleaned a perception of commodified – buy this book, pay to attend that course- permaculture… somewhat misconstrued as it turns out.
The actuality of permaculture as a philosophy and available every-person liveable culture became apparent after not too much research when a deeper interest was piqued upon serendipitous discovery of its offering as a Tafe NSW online course; the list of course units hinting there was more to permaculture than I had believed… beginning with design.
What I discovered was both broader and more nuanced than I had understood before my further reading revealed permaculture’s concertina-like scope confers it traction in every context of day-to-day life, and the personal revelation that permaculture is holistic and inclusive of what I had considered were my assorted interests – environmental sustainability & stewardship, resource and land conservation, regenerative horticulture & agriculture, organics, biodynamics, gardening, living sustainably, local community- but offers much more: not a counterculture but an egalitarian toolkit.
“One of the most important things about permaculture is that it is founded on a series of principles that can be applied to any circumstance—agriculture, urban design, or the art of living. The core of the principles is the working relationships and connections between all things.”
― Juliana Birnbaum Fox, Sustainable Revolution: Permaculture in Ecovillages, Urban Farms, and Communities Worldwide
I’m preparing to launch @daleleelife101 -and myself- as a stallholder into the world of local markets. A long-term patron of local markets… and not so local… we visited our fair share of markets when we travelled around Australia in 2016… for years I have bored the G.O. witless with my to-ing and fro-ing on the possibility of realising my dream of having my own stall. On the one hand there is -I believe- too much gratuitous consumer stuff being thrust at us these days. On the other hand, I derive great satisfaction from creating simple inexpensive household and personal products. Finally it came down to monkey see monkey do: I hope to inspire others with my manifesto… #LiveSimpleHomeMadeGrownLocalCreativeBetter.
As soon as we tree-changed from city to country three and a half years ago I began working on our mission statement to… “follow our dream of living simply and creatively” by making as many food, household and personal items as my time and talents allow… simple seasonal condiments and preserves, flavoured salts, dried herbs, tea, cleaning products, deodorant, fragrance… some of which as well as plants and seeds will translate to a market stall, and hopefully -time and talent allowing- I’ll be inspired to try my hand at some new creative projects.
After realising another dream -studying Horticulture at Tafe NSW which involved me driving 160 km roundtrip to and from Coffs Harbour twice a week for two and a half years during semester time- I’ve turned my focus to home, studying Certificate IV Permaculture via Tafe NSW Digital… a commitment of additional course hours but no commute, hopefully scope for further creativity.
A multitude of ideas and options crisscross my mind but I keep returning to the intention… keep it real. Other than investing in a small selection of beautiful and reusable amber glass bottles all other bottles and jars are recycled as well as reusable, keeping plastic as much as possible to a minimum.
After I complete a Food Safety Supervision training course in early August, my plan is to begin with the next local Taylors Arm markets, held our lovely old village hall. I’ve persuaded -I hope- a couple of neighbours -a baker and a maker- and maybe the G.O. to have a go as well. Part of the motivation that finally prompted me to act is my wish for a successful & regular village market. More stallholders are needed… be the change you want to see in your community.
“Don’t underestimate the power of your vision to change the world. Whether that world is your office, your community, an industry or a global movement, you need to have a core belief that what you contribute can fundamentally change the paradigm or way of thinking about problems.” Leroy Hood
“Village life gently swirled around them, with the perpetual ebb and flow of people, scurrying in every direction. The village was a living, organic entity, with blood flowing through its veins, and with a definite pulse and heartbeat. It had its own distinct personality and its own dark caustic humour, and was constantly processing and regurgitating information through its winding, meandering streets.”
Chokos are an old-time Aussie favourite, native to South America where it is known as chayote. The choko vine remains a feature of many backyards, growing over the chook pen or along a fence; bearing green, slightly spiky fruit with mild, white flesh. In Australia it was used as a pie or jam filler during the Depression years. Often in those days the vine adorned its contempory, the backyard dunny. Choko still graces modern dinner tables of its fans, in vegetable form -barbequed, fried or baked with white or cheese sauce.
In this household I’m the single fan of choko as a vegetable. The G.O. however, has a fondness for choko pickles: the speciality of many a nanna, mum, aunt or generous neighbour; omnipresent as a condiment; ubiquitous at fetes & market stalls; and useful as a bartering commodity.
Use a long pole with a bent nail in the end to reach a baker’s dozen of the highest & biggest chokos on your neighbour’s vine because everyone else got there before you.
Peel, deseed & neatly dice chokos.
Wash your hands half a dozen times to get the choko sap off them… unsuccessfully.
Peel and neatly dice 16 medium brown onions.
Soak choko & onions in salted water overnight.
Hunt out jars from where they’ve been stashed in the shed.
Prepare jars by boiling for 30 minutes to sterilise.
Open all the kitchen windows. Turn on ceiling fan.
Heft tub of soaking chokos & onion onto the sink, drain & rinse.
Transfer chokos & onion to large stockpot.
Add equal quantities white sugar & white vinegar, i.e. 12 cups each.
Update shopping list to replenish white sugar & vinegar.
Add 6 teaspoons each of tumeric, ginger powder, white pepper, mustard powder & curry powder.
Stir to combine then bring to boil.
Reduce heat and simmer with lid on for approximately 1 hour.
Panic that you haven’t sterilised enough jars.
Scour cupboards for more, wash, then microwave extra jars for 2 minutes.
Put all jar lids in saucepan to sterilise… again, and boil for 10 minutes.
Put all jars on trays in oven on 120 Celsius for at least 30 minutes to sterilise… again.
Remove lid from stockpot, remembering not to stick face into spicy vinegar fumes.
Reserve half cup of liquid in small bowl.
Firmly break up softened chokos & onions using potato masher.
Turn up heat, bring back to boil & reduce by half.
Mix 2 tablespoons of cornflour into cooled reserved liquid.
When contents of stockpot have reduced by half, lower heat & blend in cornflour mixture until contents thicken slightly.
If, like me, you prefer thick, caramelised pickles rather than liquidy-floury, use as little flour as possible, make smaller batches… and share judiciously.
Spoon mixture into hot jars leaving headspace at top.
Sort through lids trying to figure out which belongs to what.
Screw lids on tight.
Wipe spillage off jars with damp cloth.
Lick sticky residue off fingers… mmm… spicy… sweet.
Place jars on heat-proof surface to cool.
Label jars with contents & date unless you plan, later, to play guess the mystery contents.
Add to the label, in the spirit of optimism, a note asking for jar to be returned.
Listen for popping noises that indicate jars have achieved airtight seals.
Happy dance each time you hear a pop.
Pickles are best left to mature for at least a week, better a month.
Store jars in cool cupboard. Refrigerate once opened.
If a not quite full jar remains, store in fridge and enjoy immediately.
Eat choko pickles with cheese & bread, as a side to eggs & meat dishes, as a condiment to curries and casseroles, add to rissole/meatball mix…
Many variations of choko pickle recipes can be found in old cookbooks and via Google.
A basic, classic recipe is http://www.foodtolove.com.au/recipes/choko-pickle-306
If you want to learn more about chokos including how to grow your own, Jackie French: A Choko Needs to know its Place is a good start.
“Alexandra often said that if her mother were cast upon a desert island, she would thank God for her deliverance, make a garden, and find something to preserve. Preserving was almost a mania with Mrs. Bergson. Stout as she was, she roamed the scrubby banks of Norway Creek looking for fox grapes and goose plums, like a wild creature in search of prey. She made a yellow jam of the insipid ground cherries that grew on the prairie, flavoring it with lemon peel; and she made a sticky dark conserve of garden tomatoes. She had experimented even with the rank buffalo-pea, and she could not see a fine bronze cluster of them without shaking her head and murmuring, ‘What a pity!’ When there was nothing to preserve, she began to pickle.” Willa Cather, ‘O Pioneers
I’ve arrived at the end of my year of Horticulture study greatly wiser, learning a lot… enough to understand there is so much more I do not know. However, among many useful skills I acquired the aptitude to research and find answers within the horticultural domain.
Professionally, as well as actually obtaining a qualification as a horticulturist and the starting point of a knowledge base, the most rewarding aspect was that I began to think like a horticulturist with confidence to look further, know who to ask or where to obtain more information.
Personally, I had a wonderful year. I enjoyed exercising my brain via processing new data. I met and spent time with a diverse & entertaining group of fellow students, talented teachers with impressive industry expertise, and found new community in the horticultural realm.
Some of the metamorphosis was tangible. For the first half of the year I showed up at class in versions of my everyday attire until mid-year when I knew this was a way of life to which I’d decided to commit, demonstrably in the form of purchasing a pair of steel cap work boots, now my go-to footwear paired with a black t-shirt and blue denim jeans, quite different to my city corporate legal wardrobe pre-2016.
If you’re wondering What Next? I was too. The answer became apparent as the year progressed. More of The Same. The more I learn the more I realise how much more there is to learn. It takes time to create a muscle memory bank, a knowledge reference base that is habitual & reflexive when called upon.
For 2018 I’ve enrolled for another year at Tafe studying Production Horticulture, with a balance of theory and appealing practical aspects growing crops such as garlic and ginger in the Tafe agricultural plot.
“Plant dreams, pull weeds & grow a happy life.” Anais Lee
Wishing you love and light for the festive season. Thank you for your blogging company during 2017. Day-to-day life has been pleasantly busy and not all as I’d envisaged prior to our sea-tree change in late 2015 but at the moment the balance works for me, and I’m happy with the juggling act that it is.
For glimpses of our everyday life you can see my Instagram snapshots on the right (hover cursor over the pics for the captions) or if you’re an Instagrammer you can follow me at daleleelife101.
My Horticulture Certificate 3 year in pictures…
In addition to Horticulture Certificate 3, I did a couple of complementary short courses. SafeWork NSW National WHS General Construction Induction Training (White Card) and…
It’s amazing how much you can accomplish in a year via subsidised education fees – my fee spend was $340, plus petrol money and my time.
Hello from mid-semester holidays.
My year of studying Horticulture at Tafe is hurtling along. One more term -8 weeks- until I complete Certificate 3, during which time I need to decide what to study next year… Too much of a good thing is wonderful! Despite more than a few aaarrrghhh I’m never going to meet this study-assignment deadline moments, I love being a face-to-face student, fortunate to find myself in the company of interesting & interested adult learners and talented teachers in an environment encompassing pleasant campus grounds, greenhouses and classrooms.
Day-to-day life continues to be a work in progress. The G.O. and I regularly marvel that we are still refining -but at least improving- the approach to and execution of our #lessismorelife. Although reconciled that many of my pastimes remain in limbo currently usurped by study and [often somewhat pared back] real life, as well as studying I continue to work at crafting a lifestyle which gives more attention to daleleelife101’s social media presence as well as recreational reading, writing and better than ad hoc visits across the blogging community. I have much to show & tell but coalescing it into shareable form remains an elusive art.
On the home-front we have been mostly focussed on the garden, necessarily. We’re two days into October and rain is falling for the first time since our early winter drenching courtesy of Cyclone Debbie in mid-June. When your household relies solely on rainwater tanks, almost 4 months with no rain feels like a very looooong time.
Some time ago when it became apparent record dry & hot temperatures and the forecast lack of precipitation was ongoing we implemented further water conservation measures, including harvesting kitchen sink water to keep the garden alive. In the midst of a dry winter and beginning to spring it has rewarded us with small pleasures.
“… real happiness isn’t something large and looming on the horizon ahead, but something small, numerous and already here. The smile of someone you love. A decent breakfast. The warm sunset. Your little everyday joys all lined up in a row.” ~ Buried Light, Beau Taplin
The title of this post was supposed to be “how we got happy…” but it’s more than that, I’m feeling rich these days, an abundance of happy. We made it, we’re really living the life we dreamed of.
We’re in the middle of a glorious Australian subtropical winter, I’m in the middle of a mid-year study break. Just over 18 months has passed since we traded our city lives & working incomes for the best laid plans of a new life in the country.
Our first year was a whirlwind of unpacking, shuffling, fixing, gardening, building, adapting, cooking, cleaning, growing, making, maintaining, settling interspersed with several months of holiday caravanning around Australia before resuming unpacking, shuffling, fixing, gardening, building, adapting, cooking, cleaning, growing, making, maintaining, settling. Much of which continues.
It isn’t quite what we’d envisioned… lazy days reading books in the sun, pottering around the garden, leisurely homegrown home-cooked meals, creative projects, day trips to the beach. It’s more; busier, challenging, exhausting and rewarding.
It seems we’ve hit a sweet spot. In words and pictures, as briefly as I can…
First on the list and incredibly satisfying is doing things for ourselves. I grew-cooked-made-built-fixed-did this. Tangible & immediate payoff, or long-term gain.
We support, share, barter, collaborate, exchange with neighbours, family and friends.
With so much going on in our lives exposure to television, news media and the superficial side of social media is naturally limited. We’re not sorry about that.
Although we no longer participate in a structured Monday to Friday working week, this wonderful homemade life is fulltime, so we endeavour make -at least- weekends our free days.
We focus on what we have, what we can do for ourselves and the benefits.
There are times we spend modest funds running errands, going to markets, celebrating occasions, and so on. Sometimes we make major purchases that will add value to our life. We then resume our usual fabulously frugal.
We aren’t alone, there are people in our community and all over the world living similarly, many using creditable social media platforms to document their experiences and inspiration. Our life would be so much poorer and less enjoyable without the generosity of their shared information. We contribute to the mix via the blog, Instagram and Facebook, and taking time to chat.
Love the life you live. Live the life you love.
We believe wealth is more than money in the bank and dollar value of possessions. Time is an under-valued resource. How much of your life did that Thneed cost? Time or money, what we spend must give us a lifestyle return.
Although our income is limited we have an extras contingency plan which enables us to take advantage of bargains, bulk buys, and cover emergencies. We use it judiciously. We live fabulously frugally by choice, and long term have modest funds we can’t access until later in life.
When I planned to study I called the local Tafe college, then visited, and was provided with advice on courses, what financial support I could access and how.
When it became apparent the G.O.’s self-employment plans were going to be delayed by his knee injury we sought assistance from local government agencies to understand what options were available for him.
We don’t do cheap. We prefer the terms fabulously frugal… or plain old-fashioned thrifty, embrace less is more and live well.
Finally, free advice if the ambiguous title led you here and you made it through all the way to the end.
If you’re searching for rich don’t overlook happy. If you’re searching for happy you can make it yourself.
As the season changed from summer to autumn I continued to live in two horticultural worlds; one of words creating an imaginary garden in answer to a client brief to fulfil the major plant culture assignment for my Hortculture course at Tafe, and the other of deeds working on our garden.
Today I finished the report. This is the overview, where I “sell it”…
The gardening year naturally divides into four seasons characterised by their own events, cycles and weather. Taking into account the practical, aesthetic and sensory this plant assemblage has been selected to accomplish an outcome which is both handsome and serviceable.
It offers an opportunity for simple pleasures: waking to birdsong, beholding butterflies, soothing bee hum, wafting perfume, feel of fragrant foliage, aroma and flavour of fresh culinary edibles, as well as seasonal appreciation of ever-changing leaves and flowers.
Central to this garden design is its heart, literally evidenced by a signature Cercis canadensis ‘Forest Pansy’ (Eastern Redbud) whose burgundy heart shaped leaves and rose coloured flowers are on display front and central, offset by a mass of Gaura lindheimeri’s (Beeblossom) whirling butterflies blooms adjacent to a stand of stylish Prunus glandulosa ‘Alba Plena’ (Dwarf Flowering Almond).
Acanthus mollis’ (Oyster Plant) resplendent ruffled shiny green foliage studded with striking purple and white flower spikes in summer heralds the front walkway, preceding an invitation to linger along scented Lavendula dentata (French Lavender) fringing the entry, divert to a troika of tasty Fragaria (Strawberry) species or the perfume of an espaliered Osmanthus heterophyllus (Fragrant Holly) just beyond.
Flanking the western border are glossy dark green foliage and pink budded, fragrant springtime flowers of Viburnum x burkwoodii (Burkwood Viburnum) countering a multi-hued floral display ensemble of Impatiens species skirting the deck.
On the eastern side Backhousia citriodora’s (Lemon Scented Myrtle) bronzed green leaves and clusters of flowers provide a lemon scented boundary and backdrop to the patio.
Neighbouring the existing grove of citrus, a triad of culinary tub specimens garnish patio boundaries: Punica granatum ‘Nana’ (Dwarf Pomegranate), Eugenia reinwardtiana (Cedar Bay Cherry), Laurus nobilis (Bay Laurel) are close by Rosemarinus officinalis ‘Tuscan Blue’ (Rosemary) demarcating the kitchen garden proximate to the pergola’s swathe of Passiflora edulis (Purple Passionfruit).
A guard of tall evergreen Melaleuca armillaris (Bracelet Honey Myrtle) with creamy-white puffy flowers and characterful bark grace the rear northwest corner balanced by a trio of fragrant flowering Abelia species in the northeast.
Taking advantage of the generous proportions of rear space a trinity of Ceratopetalum gummiferum (NSW Christmas Bush) provide shade and festive display in harmony with the adjacent jewel of the backyard, a Lagerstroemia indica x fauriel ‘Natchez White’ (Crepe Myrtle).
Complementary and constructive plant selections have been made to accomplish eighteen contiguous but distinct areas and uses proposed by the landscape concept plan, and are detailed in Appendix 2 Plant Selection Sheet and Appendix 3 Plant Profile Sheets.
Then went for a walk around our garden with my camera…
“A man of words and not of deeds
Is like a garden full of weeds” ~ John Fletcher
As autumn weather intensified into flood rain during the latter part of the week our day-to-day life calmed. During a sunny Sunday morning lull in the downpour I checked the garden and snapped some photographs.
Approaching week 8 of my Horticulture course at Tafe I’ve been directing time and attention to preparing for assessments and assignments. To date I’ve developed a memory bank of 30 Latin plant names.
Amidst this everyday, life and death goes on… We’ve attended 2 family funerals, an uncle on my mum’s side and the G.O.’s aunt, the G.O.’s knee arthroscopy went well and while he
impatiently recovers he literally & figuratively workshops future ideas & plans. We take care of domestic business, shop, cook, clean and of course garden.
The client brief for my major assignment sees theory and practice mingle as we improve our own garden and I create another on paper, in the process learning that I can dig holes, and weave words around just about any subject.
“Remodel existing garden using optimal plant selections to achieve eighteen adjacent but discrete functional areas and uses proposed by the landscape concept plan.
Propose solutions for pests and diseases.
Retain and rejuvenate trio of existing citrus trees.
Propose care plan for kikuyu lawn.
Select and provide detailed profiles for plants suitable to a residential garden…
… This stylish scheme fulfills the fundamental requirements of the garden and adds value to the property, then goes further to reward its owner throughout the year with leisure-time enjoyment and opportunities for hands-on cultivation balanced by peace of mind in leaving broader care to a horticulture specialist…
… Bees are necessary to the ecosystem and beneficial to gardens. Their diet needs to come from a variety of sources, in early spring and in times of scarcity when little else is in bloom, dandelions are a valuable food. Timing lawn mowing to allow dandelion flowers to bloom provides incentive for bees to come into the garden. Mowing before flowers develop into seed heads prevent dandelions proliferating…”
Above: We have growing things! Looking from both ends of our vege garden cage
Above: The G.O. added rock edges and I added plants to extend back & front garden beds
Above: Bone gardening Diesel-dog style…too many parsley seedlings anyway… and brick paving G.O. style
“In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. But in practice, there is.” ― Yogi Berra