Permibytes November 2011

Presidents Report

Hello PSN members and friends,

Our October meeting was a great one with the screening of the film Anima Mundi. For those who haven’t seen it yet, it’s important viewing for re-connecting us with the big picture, and with the deep ecology that underpins our Permaculture principles and the massive challenges we face in peak oil and over-consumption. This month’s meeting will be member’s Show and Tell night – this is where our members get to show the projects they’ve been working on at home.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Barbara Clark for her hard work for PSN as coordinator of the Willoughby Local Group and Living Skills Team. Unfortunately, Barbara has needed to stand down for a while due to family reasons, but I’m sure you would all join me in thanking Barbara for the wonderful energy, ideas and hard work she brought to the team – and we all send best wishes. While Barbara is away, Willoughby local group members are able to team up with the North Sydney local group events. Peter Pezzolesi, our fearless Chef, has kindly stepped up to the role as Living Skills Coordinator, and is kicking off his role with a fantastic bread making workshop this weekend. This is going to be a fantastic event – please check the website for more details.

Another reminder – the PSN Annual General Meeting is coming up in December and all positions will be open for new nominations. No matter what your skills, there are heaps of ways you can contribute to the running of our community group. If you are interested in gaining skills in community development, and in making a difference to sustainability in our region, please contact me to talk about opportunities in PSN.
Thanks all and see you at our meeting on the 21st.

November is PSN Members’ Show and Tell Night!!!!

Get ready for one of PSN’s most popular evenings. Arrive early to get a good seat on  Monday, November 21, doors open to members at 7pm for a 7:30pm start, visitors welcome.

Better yet, you, as a PSN member can request to be one of the presenters! Presentation time is not long, no more than ten minutes. Speakers have good fun. This is a fantastic opportunity to share some of your interesting and valuable permaculture findings and experiences with a very friendly and attentive PSN audience.

If you wish to be considered for one of the speaker spots then please send me an email with the title and a very brief description of your presentation. You must do this by Friday 4th November 2011. Send your Show and Tell speaker request to the following email address with the subject: Show and Tell speaker request

To those members, and I don’t remember who you all were, who spoke to me at the last PSN meeting about possibly being a Show and Tell speaker, you need to confirm your interest if you wish to be considered. You must do this by Friday 4th November 2011. Send your Show and Tell speaker request to the following email address: with the subject: Show and Tell speaker request.

Best get your speaker requests in as soon as possible. The Show and Tell Speaker selections are already underway. You will be notified if selected. The objective is to get a good diverse selection of permaculture presentations bedded down in a timely manner. However at times selection and confirmation of the PSN Show and Tell speakers can be a bit of “first in best dressed” crossed with “a few lotteries going on at the same time”. So please don’t be disappointed if you aren’t selected this time around. Before you know it PSN will be holding another Show and Tell night.
Permaculture Warringah, Pittwater and Manly will be doing the catering please remember to bring your own cups.

PSN Education Team - Diana Watson
The Education Team is planning events for next year and welcomes suggestions from members. Ideas for book purchases for the Library are welcome too. Donations: We welcome your surplus Permaculture books, dvds, or garden tools for the library.

In November, three members are giving talks for Lane Cove Council which may interest you: Organic Pest Control Using Companion Planting, Backyard Poultry, Productive Balcony Gardening. Details and bookings available at Environment/EventsActivities.htm

Please remember to return your books and dvds to the library, or arrange for them to be delivered, so that others may borrow them too.

If you would like to join the Education Team, please contact me or come and have a chat at the next monthly meeting - Diana 9416 2929

Free workshop - Bread Making from Scratch! - 5 Nov 2-5pm at Karonga
Peter Pezzolesi, our champion PSN Chef, will show you how to make baguettes, focaccia, pizzas and bread rolls.

You'll also get to feast on pizza and foccacia, and take home some baguettes to finish in your oven for dinner. Once you know how to make this basic bread dough you'll be able to experiment with different flavours, flours and methods and cook up a storm at home!

This workshop is for PSN members only, and unfortunately we will need to limit to a maximum of 12 people. This popular event willl be first in, best dressed, so if you’d like to join us please register by emailing Pez on

On the day, please bring a metal baking dish so that you can take your baguettes home!

PSN Advocacy Team - Barry Hadaway
My last report was that for the June Newsletter so I have a bit of catching-up to do!
Activities undertaken since my last report have been:

1. On the 13 July 2011 we wrote to Robyn Parker, Minister for the Environment and Chris Hartcher, Minister for Resources and Energy regarding Mining Law Reform.
In June the Environmental Defenders Office issued a discussion paper, "Mining Law in NSW". This paper ( ), made 21 recommendations for the reform of Mining Law in NSW.

For example: Recommendation 3 proposes that the government introduce a Strategic Land Use Planning Process that amongst other things will "establish 'no-go' areas of NSW where mining operations are prohibited". Such a reform is needed to protect prime farming land from pollution and aquifer damage.
The PSN Advocacy Team wrote to Chris Hartcher, Minister for Resources and Energy and Robyn Parker, Minister for the Environment advocating that the recommendations of the EDO should be accepted and given legislative force to counter Climate Change and Pollution & to protect our Food Security. This letter is available on the Noticeboard.
A considered response has been received from the Office of Environment and Heritage, which in part states, "The Minister for the Environment has asked the OEH to consider the recommendations listed on the discussion paper for legislative reform". In comparison Chris Hartcher missed the point altogether and sent back a ‘form letter’ concerning the coal seam gas industry. We will have to write to Mr Hartcher again!

2. On 6 September 2011, we presented a submission to the NSW Parliamentary Inquiry into Coal Seam Gas Mining. Our submission argued there are clear reasons why Coal Seam Gas Mining should be prohibited, namely:
· Coal Seam Gas Mining will cause serious environmental damage impossible to reverse
· Coal Seam Gas mining will threaten the security of our food supply
· Coal Seam Gas mining will not reduce greenhouse gas emissions
We urged the Inquiry Committee and the State Government to reject short term thinking and the lure of easy dollars from mining licenses and royalties and to:
· Adopt a long term view
· Consider the wellbeing of future generations
· Apply the Precautionary Principle
PSN Members were invited to contribute their ideas for inclusion in the submission via the PSN Noticeboard. The full text of the PSN submission may be viewed on the Noticeboard.

3. On 21 October 2011 we wrote to Chris Hartcher about renewable energy policy and have asked him to tell us if NSW has a strategy to move to 100% zero emissions power generation.
Question: Did you know that the NSW Government has given approval to projects that will provide 11,418 megawatts of new electricity generating capacity and 8,875 megawatts of the total are for coal or gas fired generators! See )
4. NSW Planning Review
The importance of this review is somewhere between enormous and huuuge!
This is the first full revision of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act since 1979.
On 20 October 2011 I participated in a community consultation/listening session run by Tim Moore at the Bankstown Sports Club. Tim is a former Minister for the Environment and one of two Planning Review joint Chairs along with Ron Dyer. What a fun time we have in Advocacy!
Three quarters of the people at this session were either Council employees or private certifiers and there were only a few community representatives. However, one community rep got pretty fired up and told Tim Moore that meaningful consultation under the existing planning system is nonexistent. He said, “The little people get walked over all the time, they get ignored, they have no one to turn to”.

I put a post on the PSN Noticeboard on 21 October 2011; urging PSN members to either attend a community Consultation/Listening session (see
for session dates and times) or make a written submission by 4 November 2011 and to put their ideas for reform of the Planning System on the Noticeboard for other PSN members to share.
John Champagne is mobilising input from the south coast community and a thank you to Cameron Little for alerting the members of the Warringah Local Permaculture Group to the issue.

A submission was made on behalf of PSN members to the Planning Review Joint Chairs on 31 October 2011. Our submission concentrates on ideas for the Objects of a new Planning Act and on an idea that a new Act should include a Vision of what a sustainable community/town/city might look like. The submission argues that if we don’t have a Vision of where it is we need to be headed, to achieve sustainability, how are we to get there? The Cheshire Cat said to Alice, “If you don’t know where you are going any road will get you there”. The community needs the direction of Planning and Development in NSW to be put on the right path towards a sustainable future.

The full submission may be viewed on the PSN Noticeboard under the NSW Planning System Review topic.

Looking to the future one project I am contemplating is to critique the Climate Change Policies of Labor and the Coalition. There are two overflowing cans of worms here to be pulled apart and subjected to scrutiny to see if the policies of the major parties make sense and are not full of contradictions. Sounds like a good activity for a very long rainy day! If anyone would like to volunteer input to this project it would be most welcome.
Advocacy Meetings.
The next Advocacy Meeting will be held on Tuesday 8 November 2011, commencing at 7.30pm at 3 Yerong Street, Ryde. We aim to finish meetings by 9.30pm so as not to make it too late a night for those who are prepared to come along and make a contribution.

AGM – Call for nominations - Geoffrey Hawker PN Returning Officer 2011
The AGM of PSN will be held on Monday 19th December 2011 and nominations are called for positions on the management committee consisting of the executive (President, Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer and Local Groups Co-ordinator) and the seven team leaders (Advocacy, Communications; Living skills; Education; Fundraising; Gardens; and Shows).

If necessary, nominations will be called from the floor. A nomination form is enclosed with this edition of the Newsletter in case you want to nominate someone for one of these positions. Nomination forms should be lodged with the Returning Officer, Geoffrey Hawker, by 8pm Monday 12th December. He can be contacted at Phone 9888 2575 or 21 Scott St, Marsfield. NSW. 2122.
                                                      Escaping the rat Race -Barry Hadaway

Part 1 of Escaping the Rat Race explained our motivation for moving to the country. In Part 2 I talked abo ut our first steps in developing a bare block. Part 3 explained the objectives and principles behind our planned solar passive, sustainable home. In this, the final instalment, I want to show you the permaculture design for our property. It isn’t easy to reduce 10 hectares to a small diagram! I hope the drawing below is adequate to give you a feel for the ‘shape’ of the land and our design.

As the contour lines indicate, the land rises from a little over 500 metres elevation at the front to a bit over 560 metres in the eastern corner. There is a similar height hill to the south on our neighbours block (in a line south from our Header Tank). The contour lines and ephemeral water courses show there are two gullies running down the block. The main one on the northern side runs nearly the full length of the block.

There is a hip in this gully approaching the southern corner & the land falls away over this hip (i.e. between the contour lines). The second gully, which is much shorter, is on the south side at the front of the block. Our Access Road follows a rising ridge line between the two gullies.

The long boundary is 794M. The Wollar Road boundary, our access point, is 161M. Our high level objectives informing the design are:
  1. To meet the major part of our food requirements from our own produce and animals
  2. To utilise animals to provide some income and food, to control woody weeds and to improve our pastures
  3. To harvest sufficient water to maintain ourselves and our animals, gardens, orchard, olives, nut trees and other productive plantings
The design is of course based on permaculture principles. For example, applying the principle Catch and Store Energy, we are going to construct a new dam (12) at the highest practical point in the main gully. This dam will capture water from the hill to the south through the construction of a new combined access road/diversion channel. The water level in this dam will be high enough to allow us to water our Zone 1 gardens (4), orchard (5) and pumpkin/melon/potato patch (6) via gravity feed.

The winter (frosty) photo (top) was taken from the site of the new dam (immediate foreground), looking down the curving north side gully. The glimpse of the shed roof gives a feel for how much higher the new dam will be than the gardens around the shed & house. The header tank on the left is as high as possible on our own land.

There is a fair bit of detail in Zone 1 that cannot be shown on a small drawing. Zone 1 adjacent to the house and shed will include: herb gardens adjacent to the kitchen; a mandala garden adjacent to the kitchen for plucking greens; a pergola in front of the shed roller doors for shade and to support a grape vine; citrus trees, a passion fruit vine, bay tree and kaffir lime as part of a semi enclosed ‘outdoor room’ between the shed and house – see “A Pattern Language” by Christopher Alexander et al, page 764 (Pattern 163); house and shed water tanks and an outside composting toilet and six vegetable beds to allow for rotations and a glass house, compost bins, a cob oven and fire pit

Our water management plan includes: the new high dam and access road/diversion channel; an irrigation tank to allow us to utilise water from the dam in the centre of the property a times when the high dam is low and a swale that will overflow into the centre dam to capture water from the slope in front of the house.

Our fire plan includes: fire retardant species in our frost arc & shade plantings, including productive under-storey shrubs, e.g. coffee; an emergency exit gate (already installed) in the southern boundary fence; adequate gravity fed water and a fire pump; pumpkin/melon/potato patch immediately in front of the house and grass control by our animals over the whole front section of the property.

We are currently debating what types of animals we will have, apart from the mandatory chooks! It has been recommended that we use a small number of cattle as the best solution for rapid pasture improvement. I want to include some Boer goats for meat & to control woody weeds that the cattle won’t eat. Each animal has pluses & minuses. Cattle will improve pastures quickly but need a lot of feed plus a yard with a heavy duty ramp for transport. Goats can be loaded for transport using a light weight ramp but need excellent fencing. Goats need permanent perimeter fencing with sheep mesh attached and three strand electric internal fences for grazing cells.

Cattle only require single strand electric fencing. We might also be tempted to get some ducks, partly for eggs & pest control, but also because they are so nice! Zone 5 and the gully at the eastern end of the property will remain the province of a mob of kangaroos living there now, together with some wombats.

We have been observing our land for 5 years now and think we have a reasonable plan but there is always room for improvement and things will, no doubt, be changed and refined along the way. The big job now is to make it happen – to build our home, plant the orchard, create veggie gardens, build fences, etc, etc, etc! As management guru Peter Drucker said, “Plans are only good intentions unless they immediately degenerate into hard work”.

PSI workshop - Hands-on Straw-Bale Construction Workshop - 12th, 13th, 26th & 27th November

Make hay while the sun shines

Building with straw bales is one of the most sustainable ways to build and PSI’s hands-on straw bale construction workshop will show you how you can construct all sorts of structures including homes, studios, garden structures, garden walls and of course the sound proof chook house. This four day course over two separate weekends will cover the theory and principles of building with bales as well as provide you with a hands on straw bale construction experience you will never forget. It’s also easy and suitable for both beginners and experienced builders.

You will be building an octagonal straw bale chicken house – a beautiful and soundproof structure perfect for noisy roosters in the suburbs! Run by Frank Thomas, one of the best straw-bale house builders in Australia, this workshop will open your eyes to the way many lived in past times and can live again in the future in these sustainable, healthy, beautiful, energy efficient structures in both the urban or rural environment.

So if you are considering adding that extension, building garden walls or animal shelters or if you just want to learn about straw bale construction, have a great weekend, meet great people, eat great food, relax by the pool and have a fantastic time, then this workshop is definitely one not to miss. Make hay while the sun shines Sat & Sun 12th, 13th, 26th & 27th November. Bandusia Country Retreat St Albans (2 hours from the city) and a bargain at $395 for the workshop and meals. Ring Penny for more info 9888 2575. Also see A range of suitable accommodation is also available at Bandusia

See also our next upcoming workshops “Summer in the Organic Veggie Garden” Workshop “Food for all seasons” the two-week intensive PDC Course and the very highly regarded, comprehensive, Introduction to Permaculture Course..

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