An Introduction to Permaculture Course in the Lockyer Valley

The Citizens of the Lockyer (a community group in the Valley) is planning to run an Introduction to Permaculture course over two consecutive Sundays in October.  The teacher will be Tom Kendall, who taught the Permaculture Design Certificate course that I did in June-July this year.

Tom grew up on an 11,000 acre wheat and sheep farm at Grasspatch, north of Esperance in Western Australia, which he took over after his father retired.  In 2000 he sold the farm and moved to the Sunshine Coast, where in 2005 he bought the property that is now Maungaraeeda and developed it as a permaculture-based operation.

I posted earlier about my impressions of Tom’s PDC course in July.  You can see some photos of Tom’s farm in that post.  In my overview I said:

Did the course change my life?  Yes, and a lot more than I had expected – not in the sense of an epiphany or even a change of direction, but in giving me more confidence that I now have a good theoretical and practical grounding for achieving the goals we have set for our property; and the knowledge that I have someone I can turn to for advice in the future.

This will be an excellent opportunity to learn about permaculture from an experienced practitioner, without having to travel far. Participants will become more aware of methods to become resilient and efficient in their farming/vege gardening operations and will be inspired to become more self reliant.

Francine Chanovre (another of Tom’s PDC graduates who lives at Ingoldsby) and I have been talking for a while about setting up  Lockyer Permaculture Group where people can share ideas and experiences relating to permaculture.  Perhaps the Citizens of the Lockyer’s Introduction to Permaculture course will be a springboard for setting up such a group.

The course will be held at the Stockyard Creek Community Hall.

Proposed dates: Sunday 13 and Sunday 20 October 2013, 6 hours per day plus breaks.

Proposed program:

Day 1:

9.00 – 10.30 am – Introduction to the ethics and philosophy behind Permaculture and definitions for terms commonly used in Permaculture.

11.00 – 12.30 pm – Relative location – How each element performs many functions and each important function is supported by many elements.

1.30 – 3.00 pm – Efficient energy planning and how to effectively use biological resources in a Permaculture system.

3.30 – 5.00 pm – Question time.

Day 2

9.00 – 10.30 am – Energy cycling to achieve closed cycle systems; small scale intensive systems for urban and suburban Permaculture applications.

11.00 – 12.30 pm – Accelerating succession and evolution; diversity, edge effect and attitudinal principles in Permaculture.

1.30 – 2.30 pm – Resources and yield; composting and effective soil management.

3.30 – 5.00 pm – Question time.

Slides and photos will highlight practical applications. Discussion of subjects is encouraged at any time during the day.

Tom Kendall is an inspiring teacher.  In addition to his farming background he has qualifications as well as experience in applying permaculture.

In 2008 he completed a Permaculture Design Certificate with Bill Mollison (one of the founders of permaculture) and Geoff Lawton. He followed that up early 2010 with a Teacher Training Course with Geoff Lawton.

Tom is a very practical person with an wealth of knowledge about shaping landscapes and creating tools and infrastructure. Having spent all his life working the land he has an astute awareness about today’s environmental issues and aims to minimise his footprint as much as possible. His courses are unique in that he shows a lot of practical applications on his property, a Permaculture Demonstration Site, to complement the theory taught. He combines Bill Mollison’s and Geoff Lawton’s teachings with his own agricultural and self reliance experience without any spiritual connotations.

His aim is to bring Permaculture to as many people as possible, and to empower people to be self reliant.

You can visit his web site at

Cost: the Citizens of the Lockyer will subsidise approximately 40% of the cost of the course. If 15 or more people sign up, it will cost participants only $100 for the two day course. This is exceptional value for a course of this scope.

To book your place, email as soon as possible (but before 27 September), indicating your wish to attend.

Remember – the final date for bookings will be Friday 27 September.

Lockyer Valley cited as an example of sustainable and resilient action in the face of climate change

There’s an article in The Conversation today on Fire and flood: how home insurance can help us adapt to climate change that refers to the fact that after a natural disaster home insurance allows a home to be replaced on-site on a “like-for-like” basis, and life carries on as usual.  And it’s that “life as usual” aspect of it that is the problem.  The site has the same disaster risk as before and, to the extent that local planning laws allow, the new house has the same risk profile as before.  And house insurance premiums keep climbing because of the risk profile of so much of the housing stock in the face of increasingly extreme weather conditions arising from climate change.

The article suggests that the solution may lie in action taken through the

“… critical relationships that bring together the different players involved in insurance, housing provision, climate adaptation and disaster management.

They will be required to work together with various stakeholders in bravely and innovatively deciding how and where we redesign and build more resilient Australian communities. The plan to relocate homes in the ravaged township of Grantham in the Lockyer Valley is an Australian first and exemplary of how such initiatives might work through land-swaps.

There will be an uncomfortable period of transition; communities in urban areas have an inertia to them that means change is slow. Even as new safe havens pop up, they will not be available to everyone immediately. Weathering our climate change future will require a response that involves all Australians.”

I completely agree, having long thought that we need to use natural disasters as a catalyst for a process that recognises past errors in planning and design and moves, in stages if necessary, to a more sustainable and resilient situation.

Go to

to read the full article by Stewart Williams, University of Tasmania

GE, GM, …. no way. And here’s why.

Despite what I said in my last post here about getting back to reporting on actions in the Lockyer Valley, by us or others, that contribute to sustainability and letting go of the “big issue” stuff, some things are just so locally relevant (well, of course it all is, but you know what I mean) that they can’t be ignored.

In a valley where a multitude of crops are grown on an industrial scale, we need to be continually reminded of the very real dangers associated with genetically modified crops.  To that end, I feel compelled to re-blog the following from Jerry Coleby-Williams’ always thoughtful and informative blog.  It’s a letter that he wrote to the Courier-Mail back in 2005, but its relevance is timeless – and thanks to Jerry for including references for key facts.  There are a lot of bloggers, particularly in permaculture, who need to learn that backing up their statements with credible sources will motivate people to adopt and spread their message.

Here’s Jerry’s letter to the C-M:

“Biodispersal – Another word for the dictionary

Unlike Dr Marohasy (‘Let’s be smart on genetic crops, Courier Mail, 22.11.05), I’ve learned to be cautious about what governments, scientists and businesses say about new technologies.

I well remember British scientists announcing that nuclear power was going to be so cheap, safe and effective that electricity would be supplied free.

I’ve heard much pontificating about the edenic opportunities that genetic engineering (GE) offer Australia. GE will allow us to tailor diseases to exterminate vermin, reduce chemical use, improve crop yields, etc.

Smart Techniques. Pinpoint Accuracy, 100% Satisfaction Guaranteed. Simple, just trust in our technology. We Can See The Future.

So how accurate a technology is GE? How much thought has gone into the consequences of its use?

The history of our previous field experimentation in Australia give us clues as to how these things work. Either the proponents of GE are aware of the dangers and are hiding them, as did the Maralinga nuclear testers, or they are as blissfully ignorant as the introducers of the cane toad.

In the 1950’s and ‘60’s atomic weapons research was the equivalent of GE: cutting edge technology. It was hard to argue for caution without being labelled a commie, a nut, or both.

The Maralinga Tjarutja, then not even Australian citizens, were forced from their traditional land to make way for British nuclear tests: safe, controlled field trials of new technology.

Plutonium 239 loses half of its radioactive strength every 24,000 years. The testers knew that it would be safe for the Maralinga Tjarutja Aboriginal people to reoccupy their homelands after a mere quarter of a million years.

There is an almost rustic charm about nuclear pollution and feral vermin, like the cane toad. You know what they are, you know what they do and you know that their behaviour is governed by natural laws.

This is NOT true of GE. A few years ago a German biotechnology company genetically engineered a soil bacterium, Klebsiella planticulata, to decompose organic waste and at the same time generate ethanol for use as fuel. Before field trials began this new GE life form was tested in real, living soil in a laboratory.

This was very unusual: normally such tests would be done in sterilised soil. Every single plant that was grown in soil innoculated with the GE Klebsiella died. The new life form affected all the mycorrhizal fungi present in the soil.

These microscopic fungi interact intimately with plant roots assisting plant nutrition and health. Without them soil is practically useless to plants. Critically, had normal tests been completed in sterilised soil no such results would have been seen. Field trials in the natural environment would have followed. A GE life form, capable of making soil inhospitable to plant life, would have been released into the world.

In October 2002, a large dust storm, apparently visible from space, and carrying millions of tonnes of soil, stretched from northern Queensland to southern NSW and spread soil east as far as New Zealand. Dust storms carry many things apart from soil: micro-organisms, pollen, seed, eggs, spores and, perhaps, a pinch of Plutonium 239. So had this Klebsiella been trialled in Australia it might have become our Christmas gift to New Zealand.

If two supposedly geographically isolated bioregions can share genetic material so easily, it seems that a ‘controlled field trial’ is more soft terminology than hard science. In 1999 the first GE Superweeds – wild turnips (Brassica rapa) – were identified in Britain, following the ‘controlled field trials’ of a GE crop of canola (Brassica napus). These two plants share a variety of insect pollinators which spread GE pollen from crop to wild plants which then inherited a gene for herbicide resistance which they in turn passed to the next generation.

Until the advent of GE, the scientific definition of a species was a life form with a unique genetic makeup that had developed to survive the environment and ecosystem within which it had evolved over time. Natural laws of inheritance ensured that a species is genetically distinct and tends to avoid hybridising with other species. The more distantly related species are the more unlikely it is that hybridisation will occur between them: so far barramundi have never crossbred with eucalypts.

Genes defining a species were contained within its population to be inherited – vertically – down the generations, from parents to offspring. The natural world is now a laboratory where a new phenomenon – horizontal gene transfer between species, between genera, phyla and kingdoms – seems both easy and expected.

Small wonder apologists like Marohasy are spinning like mad: they need to pollute Australia with GM in order to end all precautionary State GM bans. Currently GM technology is about profit and avoiding having to pay for cleaning up your own pollution.

Every new technology has a downside that is discovered AFTER its application: atomic energy generates nuclear waste; pesticides give us bioaccumulation of poisons. With pesticides we invented the word ‘bioaccumulation’ to describe the phenomenon of pesticide residues and pesticide breakdown products accumulating towards the top of the food chain.

So here’s a new term for the movement of pollution from GE – ‘biodispersal’ – for the new phenomenon of modified genes weaving their way unpredictably across the laws of natural inheritance and widely dispersing themselves throughout the web of life on Earth.

I’m all for improving our knowledge on genetics, that is genuine, ethical, hard science. But GM technology is inherently unsafe and unnecessary and we urgently need laws to compel GM business to pay for cleaning up their pollution”.

Jerry Coleby-Williams Dip. Hort. (Kew), RHS, NEBSM, HMA, MAIH Director, Seed Saver’s Foundation

‘Bellis’ – Brisbane’s sustainable house & garden

References used and further information on GM, see the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator, P.O. Box 100, Woden, ACT 2606,

* ‘Maralinga: The Fall Out Continues’, produced by Gregg Borschmann, ABC ‘Background Briefing’, April 2000. Transcript was posted at:

* ‘Naked Ape to Superspecies’, by David Suzuki and Holly Dressel, published by Allen and Unwin, 1999, ISBN 1865081957, The David Suzuki Foundation, Suite 219, 2211 West 4th Avenue, Vancouver, British Columbia, V6K 4S2, Canada;

22nd November 2005