This month at PSN: we tackle some big issues of overpopulation, consumption and waste, and introduce a new initiative with Rowe Morrow.

News & Events
August 2017

Problems related to overpopulation. (Image: Escula de Organizacion Industrial)

There has been much said in recent times about what we can do, as individuals, to save the planet.
(There are some recent articles here and here.)

Many are worthy actions and make a difference on a small scale; however, according to a graphic I saw recently, (and unfortunately cannot locate again) the one most dramatic influence on the state of the world would be to reduce population growth.

Population can be a very sensitive and emotive topic as it touches on cultural, religious, personal preferences, and individual experiences. Some people choose not to have children or to have one fewer than initially intended; some want children but do not become parents; others become parents, not necessarily as a matter of choice.

Life is very complex, but the reality is that more people on the earth means a greater demand for the limited number of resources. Thrown in to the mix are issues of poverty and pollution, which are generally having a greater influence on regions of the world where population growth is much higher. Richer and less polluted areas of the world are seeing a decline in population, but this decline will not outweigh the increase. One prediction puts the world population at 8 billion by 2027 - just ten short years away. Is it time for population growth discussions to go mainstream?

The graphic gives us matters to ponder, even if you don't agree with all of it. You can also look up Bill Mollison's books for a permaculture perspective.

Cecilia Bird, President

  Events: The Hidden Cost of Consumption
PSN Monthly Gathering

7pm Monday 21st August
Lindfield Community Centre

Our true power as consumers might just lie what we DON'T buy...

Greg Meyer (Permaculture Sydney West) will address the permaculture principle of Fair Share as he takes a closer look at what our lifestyles really cost and who pays for it.

How we spend - or don't spend - our money could clean up our planet faster than governments, rallies, and petitions. Fair Share is about taking only what we need, and sharing what we don’t, while also recognising that there are limits to how much we can give and take.

After the talk we will have a CLOTHES SWAP - more details below.

This event is free for members, $5 for guests. 

Doors open at 6:30pm - a good time to check out our members' library & catch up with other PSN members. Please join us for supper after the talk & clothes swap.

Living Skills Workshop: Canning & Preserving
2-4pm Sat 19th August

Learn to safely preserve & can your seasonal crops at home for use throughout the year & when out of season.

Register here.

Permabee: Help Design Become Reality
9.30am-4pm Sun 20th Aug
Hornsby Heights

Help Mark, another Introduction to Permaculture Course graduate, to put his design into action.

Register here.

PNB Gathering: Beekeeping
7.15pm Thur 24th Aug

Paul Hoskinson (Northern Beaches Beekeeping Association) & Dan Smailles (Sydney Native Bees) share their passion.

More here.

News, Courses & Other Bits

Clothing Swap until you Drop - 21st August at Lindfield Gathering

As you all know, buying new clothes isn’t exactly the kindest thing we can do for our planet. Every piece of new clothing (if not made sustainably) can be the product of countless chemicals, dyes, etc, all of which can be harmful to the earth, air, and groundwater, as well as to the people making the clothing and even the people who wear it. And buying all fair-trade, eco-friendly, and/or organic clothing - which is of course better for people and the environment - can be expensive.

Then there’s the stuff that goes to waste: while many people do take advantage of op-shops, there is still a significant amount of clothing that gets dumped in landfill every year.

On August 21st at our monthly Lindfield gathering, in line with the topic for the evening’s talk (The Hidden Cost of Consumption), we’ll be putting theory into practice with a PSN clothes swap. Here’s your big chance to trawl through your wardrobe to find any unwanted clothing &/or accessories (hats, gloves, scarves, belts, etc) that you want to swap.

A few basic rules:

  • All items to be freshly cleaned and in good condition
  • No underwear or swimwear
  • Maximum 10 items.

When the swap is over, all unclaimed items will be donated to charity.

Sue Patterson, Vice President

New PSN T-shirt Order - Would you like one?

Our PSN management committee is actively investigating the purchase of t-shirts that will include the logo on the shirt shown above, but we need your input before placing an order.

T-shirts will be:

  • in a natural fibre (organic fair trade cotton or hemp)
  • of high quality
  • from an ethical company, local if possible
  • in limited colours (given there are 8 colours in the logo)
  • cost no more than $35 (lower if bulk purchased)

It is a great way for you to show your support for PSN and to promote our organisation further afield by wearing it out and about, especially at eco/sustainability events.

If you are interested in a PSN t-shirt please email Cecilia with your preference for size and colour by August 21st. The committee will use the responses to determine the choices to be made.

Cecilia Bird, President

Margaret showing visitors her native bees, worm farm, and compositing systems. (Photo: Cat Dorey)

Sustainable House Day - 17th September 2017

The goal of this event is to educate members of the public about urban food growing and permaculture. As usual, our Living Skills Co-ordinator, Margaret Mossakowska, will open her beautiful permaculture garden at 14 Burmah Road, Denistone, from 10am-4pm.

The day will be packed with interesting activities, including mini-workshops and talks, a permaculture information stall, a display of products made from the produce grown in the garden, and a plant sale.

Guided and self-guided tours throughout the garden will answer any technical questions visitors may have about urban food growing and permaculture. 

We need members to volunteer to help on the day (whole day or in shifts) between 10 am and 4 pm:

  • 1-3 knowledgeable permies for the permaculture stall (to answer questions about permaculture)
  • 1-3 gatekeepers to manage registrations
  • 1-3 people to sell plants
  • 1-3 people to sell food and drinks

If you could assist on the day or contribute homemade savoury bites, please email Margaret.

Margaret Mossakowska, Living Skills Co-ordinator

PSN's Introduction Course helped Sue design a garden for her steep and shady bush block.

How to Design Your Own Permaculture Garden - Introduction to Permaculture for the home garden

Preparations are well underway for our next Intro Course and we would like to invite you to join us. You will learn how to design your own sustainable permaculture garden from scratch. This is a 10-week Saturday morning course, beginning on 19th August, during which you will visit different working permaculture gardens. You will learn:

  • how to apply the principles of Permaculture design to create your own garden design, whether it is a suburban backyard, balcony, rooftop, courtyard, or planter boxes in a sunny part of your house, town‑house, apartment, workplace, or pots on a window ledge.
  • about water and energy management, organic solutions to pest management, and how to incorporate the secrets of herb spirals, swales, keyhole gardens, and animals into your garden plan.
  • how to analyse and document the features that affect your choices, including wind, fire and weather, and how to overcome the challenges that each garden brings.
  • how to create, test, and nurture your soil, that magical medium that recycles so much “waste” and offers us so much in return.

By the end of the course you will not only have learned how to design a permaculture garden but will also have met a wonderful group of people with whom to share your ideas, so please click on our website to register and download the flyer for more details about dates and costs.

Please share this information with your friends – it will help to let the community in on our wonderful world of permaculture.

For more information please contact our Education Team:

Diana Watson: 9416 2929; 0411 021 971
Di Evans: 9416 1896; 0408 253 490

Testimonials from past students

Nita:I did the course last year and it was life changing! Well maybe that’s an exaggeration, but it has changed the approach I take towards my garden and the choices that I make in my day to day living as the course has also thought me to be more focused on sustainable solutions. I found the most valuable aspect of the course are:

  • Attending the course over several weeks which allowed me to digest the information and even put some of the ideas into action while doing the course.
  • The friendships and network formed with other like-minded people. Post the course I still keep in touch with a few of the students and it’s great to be able to share our journey and experiences in putting permaculture principles into practice.
  • We visited a different permaculture garden each weekend, which gave me a lot of inspirations and ideas.
  • The wealth of knowledge of the teachers.
  • The Permabee at my place which helped me to bring my design to life – really helpful as I work full-time and without the Permabee’s help, I would have been overwhelmed and would not know where to start.

Nita created a video of her garden for our Facebook pages.

Matt:The title 'Introduction to Permaculture Design' only scratched the surface in conveying my experience participating in this course. Yes, I was introduced to new information, ways of thinking and the skills required to action this new found knowledge. However, it's the introduction to like-minded and inspiring human beings that has resonated most strongly. Their passion of permaculture, empathy for others, and morning tea baking know-how, cultivated an environment for collective wisdom to flourish."

Wendy:This course is an excellent introduction to fundamental permaculture concepts. Both Dianas worked really hard to bring a well-run learning program together. We got to visit members' gardens and lessons were delivered at these various sites which also tapped into the expertise of those members. So we got to learn from many other expert Permies, plus we got to visit their gardens and saw first hand how they implemented various permaculture concepts. We also benefit from getting to know fellow students who shared the same passion for a more sustainable life style. It was definitely a learning experience I would strongly recommend to anyone wanting to learn more about permaculture and gain more knowledge and skills for sustainable living.

Sue (photo right): “Wow, what a great course! Having the course spread over a number of weekends was great, as we got to see lots of permaculture gardens with an incredible variety in the interpretation and application of permaculture principles. I didn’t fully understand (before the course) that permaculture is much more about a holistic sustainable way of life rather than just about organic gardening. The course assignment (designing a permaculture solution to your own property) was a great way to tie all the course content together and has helped me solve the challenges of living on a steep bush block with very little sun (see main photo). Since the course, for example, I’ve significantly reduced the amount of water needed for my garden by building a number of swales and wicking beds (photo above).

A New Initiative with Rowe Morrow

Rowe Morrow with graduates of her PDC course in Kabul, Afghanistan. (Photo: APV)

To extend our practice of the 3 permaculture ethics – Care for the Earth, Care for People and Fair Share - PSN is introducing a new initiative: supporting Rosemary (Rowe) Morrow in her work in teaching Permculture Design Courses (PDCs) with the Afghan Peace Volunteers (APV) in Kabul, Afghanistan. This is a group of inter-ethnic young people with a commitment to permaculture and a dedication to building non-violent alternatives to war. They are mentored in their efforts by Dr. Hakim Young, winner of the International Pfeffer Peace Prize in 2012 .

Rowe’s background and progress has been to carry and share what she regards as the “sacred knowledge” of permaculture with others, who through diverse circumstances, are not able to access it. This has lead to her being asked to teach the PDC course in many war torn countries around the world including Vietnam, Ethiopia, Uganda, Cambodia and Afghanistan.

A couple of years ago PSN was privileged to screen The Garden at the End of the Earth, a documentary about Rowe’s early work in Afghanistan. This was the genesis for PSN’s idea to support Rowe in her work in Kabul. In a country with such a grim present, the practice of permaculture offers hope. The young people of APV have the desire, courage and determination to influence their future through permaculture. Rowe Morrow has the knowledge and philosophy to share the practice of permaculture, and PSN has the ability to contribute financially in this endeavour.

We are honoured to have Rowe tell us about this project for our newsletter below. Next month she will share her experiences in Kashmir.

Stephanie Robertson, Membership Secretary

Afghan Peace Volunteers putting their PDC skills into practice (Photo: APV).

Where Permaculture Defies War and Violence - by Rowe Morrow

What is there to do in countries where people have grown up never knowing a day without bombs, rifles and death? What can young people do when they have seen unspeakable tragedies, their schooling is second rate, and there are no jobs?  What is life like when the rest of the world sees you as terrorists? What is it like to be isolated from civil society, ideas, and cultural exchanges? How does it feel when all international organisations and businesses such as UN agencies, printing companies, NGOs, and banks abandon your country?

When I attended my Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC) after working in Asia and Africa I knew immediately that permaculture would be a powerful tool in situations where:

  • People are hungry;
  • Land is severely degraded and water supplies threatened;
  • There had been war, brutal occupation, or other catastrophes;
  • No one knew about permaculture or was trained in it;
  • And, when offered the opportunity, farmers and citizens could learn and apply permaculture themselves.

I had been looking for something like permaculture for some years. I decided immediately to teach it where no one had heard of it, and where the need was greatest. I have followed that directive in my overseas work for many years now.

My most recent work - which PSN is now supporting - has been teaching the PDC in Kabul, Afganistan. I taught one in 2016 and I will follow it with another this year.

I was honoured to be asked by the Afghan Peace Volunteers (APVs) to teach their first PDC - I see them as probably the bravest and greatest spirited young people in the world. They work for peace. They give time and skills to those in Kabul who are illiterate, homeless, or hungry. It would be too dangerous to protest the armed violence, so their protest is to work for the poorest in their city.

Permaculture operates on finding solutions, on enabling everyone to find their place in caring for soils, plants, animals, water and renovating buildings. It builds hope and gives meaning to life through land repair. It is neutral and not connected to war or politics. It builds communities.

All the students drew plans for where they live and then worked in groups to design a small piece of community land. Some worked on a third design for  the land where the Non-Violence Centre is based. As PDC graduates, they now have direction and skills to discuss and practice repair instead of being occupied by fear and grief, and often despair.

The first tasks for the APVs following the PDC were building gardens and storing water because siege of Kabul and its occupation from the Taliban is a daily threat. They worked on land to grow food for APVs, and to learn. They also worked in their homes and compounds.

The APVs started a Peace Trees project and had aimed to put a Peace Park into every province, until the Taliban occupied more provinces which made this difficult. There is a park in Kabul and another in Bamyam. Their most recent work has been planting trees in schools where there may be no buildings, but students will be able to learn in groups under the shade of trees.

They have been given a plot at Kabul University where they designed a garden - they sent me the design and we did a analysis over Skype. We have spoken recently of its success and problems.

From these two courses we will find the 20 or so students who will be the first permaculture teachers in Afghanistan – in a war zone with little prospect of peace and civilian violence is dangerous and unpredictable. The APVs want to teach permaculture to widows and street children who have access to land.

As part of their APV platform, they see engagement in permaculture as the way to repair their land; however, their goal is the whole world. Permaculture is now one of the arms of their proposed Institute of Non-Violence. They will need training in teaching because traditional methods are very much ‘sage on the stage’. They need support and mentoring, and I try to link them with other like-minded peace activists in the world.

These young people are the second group of people I know of, and the only young ones, committed to peace and permaculture in the world. The Palestinians are also restoring some of their lands in the midst of war.

Permaculture is truly a tool of defiance against destruction and violence.

Next month: Permaculture, Kashmir and 40 years of military occupation

  Recipe: Brown Rice Crackers


2 cups cooked brown rice
1/2 cup flax seed soaked in 1/2 cup water for 10-20 minutes
2 tablespoon olive oil

2 tablespoons sesame seeds
2 teaspoon of soy sauce


1. Put the lot into a food processor and mix it till it forms a sticky dough.
2. Divide the dough into either half or more depending on size of baking trays used.

3. Roll these out between two sheets of baking paper.

4. Place on lined baking trays.
5. Score (make cuts along dough) to make it easy to break it up later into desirable sizes.

6. Bake at 170 degrees for 20-30 minutes depending on oven and thickness of dough. You can rebake if necessary to desired crispiness.
7. Eat, share, enjoy!

Wendy Dwyer, Willoughby group

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