President's Report

Winter time is surely apon us and I don't know if I'm just more tuned in now, or it's because of all the publicity and connections on social media, but it seems like there are so many courses being run on growing food in winter. I hope everyone's taking advantage of all these opportunities, and sharing your own knowledge and skills with family, friends and your communities.

I've just got home from spending the long weekend on a friend's farm in Portland (near Lithgow). There were four of us who went to help out our mutual friend in a working bee on his boutique goat farm. Apart from a father-son relationship, none of us new each other. Early in the trip, I asked Jake, the 14 year old son of the guy driving us from Sydney, what year he's in at school and what sort of stuff he enjoys doing. He told me he's really into survival stuff and computer games... Being a 14 year old kid, I mistakenly put 2 and 2 together and equated "survival stuff" with keeping his avatar alive in those computer games where other players are all out to kill you, and each player can accrue points which they surrender in return for different weapons or special powers.

But I could not have been more wrong. As his Dad encouraged him to elaborate on what he meant, Jake enthusiastically told me about how he wants to become self sufficient. He's got a gardening business with several clients, he's got trays of seedlings growing in his bedroom, and he's put together a couple of irrigated, no dig gardening beds in the back yard of the house where his family is currently renting. He's never heard the word Permaculture before, but for all intents and purposes he seemed to know alot of what it incorporates... and why.

Throughout the day and a half that Jake and his dad stayed at the farm, Jake continued to impress me with his knowledge, enthusiasm, curiosity and elequence.

We spent quite a few hours on Saturday chopping wood. Jake taught me which tools to use - depending on the shape and grain and how solid the wood was. He taught me the right technique for most efficiently chopping the wood, using the least amount of energy to get the best cuts, and he made sure I understood why he was telling me what to do. Then, he suggested that I be the teacher and teach him how to chop the wood - and he assumed the role of being the one who had never chopped wood before.

When asked, Jake told me that none of his friends were into the gardening stuff, but he enjoys it and thinks it's important to know and be able to do because food is going to get really expensive and it's not something that anyone can afford to go without.

I'd like to thank young Jake for inspiring me and for letting me see a spark of hope for the youth of the upper north shore, that I actually didn't know existed. Let's hope that Jake becomes an influential leader of his generation.

I would love to get more young people involved in PSN, and hope that whenever an appropriate opportunity arrives, members would consider inviting their own children, nieces, nephews, and those of friends, to come and experience what it's all about.

Take care,


PSN Monthly Meeting - Monday 18 June 2012 @ 7:30pm

This month we have Rachel Goldlust, a graduate from the Earthship Biotecture Academy in Taos, New Mexico, coming to inspire us with massively successful stories of sustainable building.
Earlier this year there was a sell out presentation by Michael Reynolds (founder to the Earthship Biotecture Academy) in the Teachers Federation Conference Centre in Sydney. Not only was it amazing and quirky, it was wildly inspiring!

Earthships are dwellings made predominately from waste material (tyres and bottles), and the concept received mainstream exposure on an episode of Grand Designs last year (a home being built in France).
Rachel is a town planner in Melbourne, she has experience working with an international team on an Earthship in Guatemala and is currently working on an Earthship style retaining wall at CERES (Center for Education & Research in Environmental Strategies) Park in Melbourne.

If you missed seeing Michael Reynolds in January, make sure you don't miss this!

For more information, check out Michael's original documentary, The Garbage Warrior.

Doors open at 7pm. Lindfield Community Centre, 259 Pacific Hwy, Lindfield. Just a few minutes walk from Lindfield railway station.

Don't Forget to BYO Mug

Please bring your own reusable mug/cup to all meetings.

PSN Monthly Meetings are held on the 3rd Monday of every month.

Doors open at 7pm. Lindfield Community Centre, 259 Pacific Hwy, Lindfield. Just a few minutes walk from Lindfield railway station.
Hornsby Front Yard Transformation - PSN Garden Team

Last month the Permabee at Monique's place was wonderfully successful, installing 4 bathtub wicking beds within an Earthbag walled perimeter in the small front courtyard of her townhouse.

Thanks to all who participated. Photos can be seen on the PSN Facebook group. An article about the blitz will be up soon on the PSN Web Page under What's On -> Past Events.

This Sunday, the 17th June, the Garden Team will be finishing off the construction of a fabulous permaculture garden in Hornsby. The Garden Team helped Kay to transform her backyard into a wonderful permaculture garden a couple of years ago, and now it’s time to focus on the front.

This permabee will be a great hands on event to learn about earthworks, water management, guilds and other construction techniques. It will also be a great way to connect with active permies and get to know your community.

Prior to the permabee Kay is getting a bobcat in to get the some swales constructed to form the backbone of the design.

On the day of the permabee we will be helping Kay:

· Put in a pond;
· Plant up the swale bund with fruit trees;
· Plant up a newly constructed raised garden bed made with old recycled sleepers;
· Install the form work to support a small row of espaliered fruit trees.

Click here to register
Sustain Expo

In July there will be no Permabee. The reason for this is that we're trying to get the PSN Teams to work together more, rather than be separate silos. As such, the Garden Team, the Education Team and the Shows Team will be working in partnership to put together the PSN display for the Sustain Expo (previously the Organic Expo and Green Show).

We will also be working closely with Steve Batley from Sydney Organic Gardens, with whom we're co-designing and running the huge (100 square meters!) space. Not all the space is for a display... it will also incorporate seating for 50 people who will come to see the likes of Costa and Indira Naidoo talk.

Bump in (set up) for Sustain is on Thursday the 19th July, the expo is opened for trade and media only on Friday 20th July, and open to the public on the weekend of 21st-22nd of July, and we need to be packed up and out of the venue on the Sunday night. The venue is the Royal Hall of Industries, Moore Park.

For anyone who would like to help out and get involved, please contact Monique on

For more info about Sustain, see

Seed Savers Monthly Meet with Peter Pezzolesi

Seed Savers meet on the 4th Saturday of every month from 9am-12 noon at the Bidjiwong Community Nursery in Baulkham Hills. (Rear of Ted Horwood Reserve carpark, off Renown Rd, opposite the sports club).

All PSN members are welcome. You'll meet great people, learn a lot about cleaning seed, propagating, how to recognise and save seeds, heaps of growing tips and herbal remedies from Robyn and other knowledgeable people.

We can share our seeds with you and would love for you to share some of your special heirloom seeds with us.

Peter Pezzolesi
Seed Savers Co-ordinator
Phone 0412 817 605
PSN Education Team with Craig Duckmanton

At the last monthly meeting, I handed out a piece of paper asking for 1-5 suggestions where the Education team might make a difference. To be honest, I was really surprised at the diversity of interest and suggestions, and I was also pleased that so many took the time to note down their “wants”.

I accumulated these into 9 topic areas which were Garden Courses; Water; Construction/Fix; Living Skills; Seed Saving; Design; Pests; Permaculture courses. Of the 40 or so ideas suggested across the 9 topics, only 6 had more than 2 requests and only 2 ideas had more than 2 requests. These were “Pruning and Espaling” and “Permaculture Design in Home / Urban Gardens”

Through some measure of synchronicity, we had both a "pruner" and a "prunee" at the Education meeting and so a workshop mid-July is evolving – keep an eye out on facebook, the website and emails.

In the management committee meeting we have had discussions on changing the monthly meeting formats to make the meetings more experiential and learning oriented. As such, we are looking at creating a “window” of around 30-40 minutes where the meeting can break into “learning pods” – one pod might be around the Principles of Permaculture, others might be on Advocacy; Garden Blitzes; Social Permaculture issues; or special interest areas that members might offer skills in.

On that last note, if you hold special skills and a willingness to share them, or other education suggestions, please let me know by emailing

Advocacy Report by Barry Hadaway

Sydney over the next 20 years - Discussion Paper

The NSW Government through the Department of Planning is developing a new Metropolitan Strategy for Sydney. A discussion paper, Sydney over the next 20 years, has been released for comment - see here. The discussion paper gives you insight into Department of Planning thinking and poses questions about the direction we should be taking.

If you look at the discussion paper you will see that it proposes an increase of 1.3 million in Sydney’s population by 2031. The paper regurgitates old untruths by suggesting a new strategy can:
  • “Strike a balance between a growing city and protecting the natural environment”. (Discussion Paper, Page 5).
Comment - The concept of the triple bottom line, the idea that a balance can be struck between competing social, economic and environmental priorities is a flawed concept. What happens in practice is that we see a series of ‘balances’ being struck over time. On each occasion a bit more of the environment is sacrificed to meet economic or social objectives. The eventual outcome of the ‘economic, social and environmental balance’ approach will be a complete degradation of the natural world and the loss of the renewable resources it confers upon us.
  • Protect high environmental value and food producing land on Sydney’s fringe by forcing higher density housing into existing suburbs. “Most new housing still needs to be in existing urban areas to contain the spread of the city’s urban footprint”. (Discussion Paper, Page 13)
Comment - Infill development will not protect land on the urban fringe from development for very long. History has shown that with rapid population growth demand for land can only be contained for so long before pressure for new land releases becomes overwhelming. The ‘Cumberland Plan’ of 1948 provided for a ‘green belt’ around the inner suburbs of Sydney. The Cumberland Plan was quickly abandoned & the ‘green belt’ disappeared decades ago.

Recent studies indicate that around half of all the people living in apartments are doing so not because it is their preferred housing choice but because economic circumstances force them to live in apartments. They want single detached housing. (“The Desirable Apartment Life?”, H. Easthope, A. Tice & B. Randolph, City Futures Research Centre, University of NSW). Families want dwellings with more than two bedrooms at an affordable price & the great majority of units do not measure up. (“Nuclear reaction to house prices”, Adele Horin, SMH Weekend Edition 31 December 2011 – 1 January 2012).

More infill development will eventually lead to an irresistible breakout in demand for land releases on the urban fringe. Development pressure in Sydney should be contained, in the short term by promoting satellite cities connected to Sydney with fast transport links and in the longer term by stabilising Sydney’s population and Australia’s population at a long-term sustainable level.

Sustainability and Peak Oil?
The importance of making Sydney a sustainable city and the importance of preparing for Peak Oil do not rate a mention in the discussion paper! What are they thinking about in the so called Department of Planning?

What sort of city do you want Sydney to be 20 years from now?
There are several ways that you can take part in the discussion about Sydney’s future
  1. go to one of the 15 public drop-in sessions being held at libraries across Sydney – details here of sessions in different suburbs.
  2. visit the Metro Strategy online forum at
  3. email your comments to
  4. post a submission to the Metropolitan Strategy Team, Department of Planning and Infrastructure, GPO Box 39, Sydney 2001.
Submissions close at 5pm on Friday 29 June 2012.

If you are looking for ideas you can consult PSN’s submission to the last Review of the Sydney Metropolitan Strategy
here. (see letter sent 21 May 2010), OR the PSN submission to the Review of the NSW Planning System, which was posted to the PSN Noticeboard in 2 parts on 10 Feb 2012 (Vision of a Sustainable Sydney – NSW Planning System Review here)

Participation is Important
Our democratic system only works when people participate in large numbers. If you don’t tell the Review Team and preferably also your local State Member of Parliament what you want, then you will get what somebody else wants (most likely a property developer), not what you want!
Advocacy Team Meetings
This year the Advocacy Team is meeting on the first Tuesday of odd months. That is the first Tuesday in July, September and November. Meetings will be at 3 Yerong Street, Ryde unless otherwise advised, commencing at 7.30pm.

If you cannot make it to a meeting but you have an issue of concern please drop me an email at

Barry Hadaway - Advocacy Team Leader
Living Skills Workshop. "Learning how to sew" by Charlotte Didier

The rain was pouring down when I arrived at Barbara's place for my sewing workshop. I thought it was the perfect weather for a sewing afternoon: the house was warm, I was served some tea, some ice cream and a delicious carrot cake (home made of course!).

The other participants must have been discouraged by the rain so I could have a private lesson. Katy, Barbara's sister, gave me some explanations about the mysterious hieroglyphs printed on the pattern, taught me how to cut the fabric over it, and then sat me before a sewing machine.

I was a little bit impressed: I still have some memories of my mother warning me that you could easily break needles on the machine if you were not careful. Would I break anything today? The sewing machine was not even mine, but Barbara's crafty daughter, Marianna.

After some awkward attempts, (thanks Katy for your patience), everything went fine. The apron was coming to life before my eyes: "for this section, use long stitches, for the rest, short ones. Don't forget the back stitch when you start!".

In the meantime, house life was continuing: some family members were revolving around me, having a little chat with my teacher and I, feeding me with some more food or just checking the evolution of the artwork. It was very nice to learn something new in this familial and friendly environment.

At the end of the afternoon, I left the place on a full stomach and with a nice polka dot apron. I will probably continue and try to learn more about sewing. My mind is already full of projects and learning new skills is such a good energy!
Permaculture Northern Beaches
May PermaTour
Permaculture Northern Beaches (PNB) kicked off it's PermaTours for the year on 26 May at fellow PNB PermaTours Team Leader Donna Carey's place in Mona Vale. Donna's place is a fabulous display of what can be achieved in a rental property with only small growing space available. Features included composting and worm farm systems, a guinea pig tractor, pots jam-packed with well-known and unusual edible plants, a more permanent veggie patched located to take advantage of available space, and a diverse, edible verge planting adjacent to the property.

The morning also saw the swapping of gardening wisdom and tips from the ever-knowledgeable Donna and those who attended, as well as the sharing of cuttings and seeds. It was a highly enjoyable morning for all who attended and a great start to the PermaTours program for 2012. Be sure to watch this space as the next PermaTour for June will be announced soon.

Madeleine Ford
Permaculture Northern Beaches PermaTours Team Leader

Last Month's Meet Up
Nick Crook is very passionate about eating his greens. His enthusiasm about growing them was just as obvious as he spoke about the many options available for edible winter gardening at The Tramshed last month.

Nick emphasised working with plants that are easy care and give high returns. This included late cherry tomatoes, tamarillo and the interesting and productive lab lab bean.

Permaculture Northern Beaches member Ursula contributed both the seeds and a delicious dip made from a striking orange chilli native to her Peruvian homeland. Andrew Barclay would have been proud. Thanks to Chris and Lauren Pothof for sourcing yet another very interesting speaker

Frank Cristaudo - Communications Team

Coming Up

Come along and share some of your winter surplus with other like minded people and learn what to do with your excess.
Presented by chef Peter ‘Pez’ Pezzolesi. Bring along a plate to share, and some home produce, whether it be fruit, seeds, seedlings etc, to swap/share/sell as you wish. We're hoping to make the exhange of permacultures bounty a regular part of the monthly meet ups.

Permaculture Northern Beaches meets on the 4th Thursday of every month

Where: Lakeview Hall, Tramshed Arts & Community Centre,
1395A Pittwater Road, Narrabeen
When: 7pm for 7.30pm start

Info: Call Chris Pothof on 0413 154 024
Straw Bale Working Bee by Barry Hadaway

A straw bale building working bee was held at Dungog, from 16 May to 20 May, to help owner builder Judy Boyden raise the walls of two buildings. One small building will serve as a laundry while the second building we worked on will provide accommodation for WOOFERS and/or farm-stay tourists.

The working bee was managed by Frank Thomas of Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow straw bale constructions. All buildings on the site were designed by architect Peter Brecknock of Allyn River Permaculture who is a long time PSN member. All timber framing and roofing had been completed by local Dungog builder Shane Hannan before the wall raising, to protect the straw bales in the event of wet weather, and all plumbing and electrics had been roughed-in. The load bearing timber frames were constructed partly from plantation pine, partly from laminated veneer lumber (LVL’s) and partly from white mahogany and other native timbers logged on Judy Boyden’s own property or on that of her neighbour Dallas Rumbel. Dallas milled the timber from Judy’s property and his own property using a portable Lucas Mill.

People came and went but at any one time there were up to 20 willing workers pitching in and learning about straw bale building at the same time. People came from far and wide. Amos Cairncross drove down from Brisbane and Hans Sipsma and Linda Miller who both spend their time travelling the roads of Australia dropped in to help. The permaculture community was well represented with Penny Milburn from PC Tasmania, Shawn Buchan PC Hornsby-PSN, Sue Gard PC Northern Beaches-PSN and Barry and Rosemary Hadaway PC Ryde-PSN.

Judy had ordered 720 bales of rice straw from Coleambally and the supplier threw in 30 for good measure!

There are several stages in building a straw bale infill wall:
  1. Trimming the bales to tidy up shaggy ends so bales fit tightly together.
  2. Making half bales and special sizes to allow bales to be laid in a ‘bond’ similar to the way bricks are laid
  3. Stacking bales and positioning sometimes using the ‘persuader’.
  4. Wrapping the bales (3 rows at a time) in high tensile fencing wire passed under the bottom plates and over a compression plate notched into the top row of bales.
  5. Tensioning the wire using gripples and brute force!
  6. Stitching through bales around the high tensile wires with soft iron wire to draw the high tensile wires into the sides of the bales and allow trimming.
  7. Cobbing to fill any voids in the bale walls
After the infill walls are in place and have been trimmed with the hedge trimmer and all voids have been cobbed the rendering can be started.

Three coats of render are applied both internally and externally. Internal walls are generally rendered with a clay sand mix while external walls are rendered with a lime sand mix. The first coat is a slip coat that drives into the straw. The second coat which contains more sand is a thicker ‘scratch coat’ which fills any irregularities in the wall surface. The third coat which contains more sand again is a hard finish coat. Both clay renders and lime renders allow a straw bale wall to breath.

The attractions of straw bale building are:
  • Straw bales provide excellent insulation – approximately R8. In comparison a double brick wall has an insulation value of R0.5. However, for optimal solar passive design one has to ensure that all of the other important factors are right – orientation, high R value roof/ceiling insulation, window dimensions and placement, eve widths, internal thermal mass, etc.
  • Straw bale buildings can be constructed relatively cheaply providing the design and framing are kept reasonably simple so that an owner builder can do a lot of the work themselves. Straw bale building lends itself to this approach.
  • The aesthetic of straw bale buildings is magical with their thick walls, rounded curves into window and door openings, and wonderful wide window sills.
What did Rosemary and I learn?
  • Strawbale working bees are a great way for like minded people to come together to help someone build an environmentally friendly home. The atmosphere at Dungog was great amongst a group of people who were keen to learn and most of whom aspire to build their own straw bale homes.
  • Straw bale building is hard physical work and the willing workers develop huge appetites. Thankfully Judy did a great job in providing yummy, nourishing morning teas, lunches and afternoon teas.
  • There is a huge amount of preparation involved in organising a successful straw bale working bee. Having 20 people on site to help with your project is great but they do need food, water, toilet facilities, and a place to pitch a tent or park a camper trailer, van or motor home. Additionally, the host needs to ensure people have access to personal safety equipment and that there is a first aid kit and trained first aider on site.
  • You need a professional such as Frank Thomas to run such a working bee. People are making a big contribution by supplying their labour and they deserve to have direction and on the job tuition from a professional straw bale builder in exchange.
Our experience at Dungog has given us confidence in the workshop process. When the time comes to raise our walls on our straw bale home at Mudgee we will be looking to organise a wall raising working bee.

Barry Hadaway

Advocacy Team Leader – Permaculture Sydney North
Thank you

PSN welcome's Stephanie R. who is taking over from Ian W. as the Membership Secretary, in addition to her office bearing role of Secretary on the PSN Management Committee. A huge thank you to Ian for his many years of service looking after the comings, goings, membership payments, name tags, and local group membership administration in our community, and for being the helpful, friendly face at the door for monthly meetings.
PSN Facebook
Our facebook page is rocking! It's an excellent place for finding out what's going on in and around our area in a broader context.

Costa frequently posts here as do other well-known people and organisations.
You can interact with like minded permies to share ideas, pose questions, post interesting articles and find out what courses and events are happening in our region and around the world.

If you would like help in setting up a facebook login please email

Positions Vacant
We’d like to give all members the opportunity to help out and get involved in PSN activities, both as participants, position holders, team members and as casual helpers. We invite anyone interested in taking on the following roles to contact us at

Media Coordinator. We haven’t yet worked this out sufficiently, but we’re certainly interested in hearing from anyone that has skills in photography, videoing, putting together YouTube clips, optimising social media channels. This person would be part of the Communications team but is not a role on the Management Committee directly.

Willoughby & North Sydney Local Group Coordinators. If anyone is from these Council areas and would like to have a go at getting involved, please get in touch. You don’t have to have done this sort of thing before. In fact this year, the Management Committee is going to be investing a lot of energy into resourcing and mentoring our Local Group Coordinators to help them make their groups strong and influential within their local community, if they’re not already of course.

Just asking… Did you know that you, our members, are PSN’s most valuable resources? We know that some of you are worth your weight in gold, but what about all those people who we don’t know so well? Some people have family commitments, or difficulty in getting to meetings, or for whatever reason, we don’t see them or hear from them that often.

If you feel that you would like to get involved but don’t know exactly how, why don’t you let us know, and we can see how we can work that in with what’s going on?

Welcome new PSN members
A big welcome to all our new members since our May meeting.
Hornsby: Kate B., Helen D., Thomas H., and Nicholas R.,
Northern Beaches: Karen B., John F., Peter R., Alison R., Richard R., Tracy R., Scott R., and Leanne W;
Other: Caroline C. and Julie M.;

For details on local group monthly meetings please refer to the noticeboard or email your local group coordinator or check out the new re-occuring events page (PSN diary) here. .
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Words of Wisdom
When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he/she finds it attached to the rest of the world
John Muir

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