This month at PSN: Two opportunities to see the film SEED The Untold Story, and read about one woman's battle with a brush turkey...

News & Events
November 2017

Stephanie Roberston's (finally) possum proofed food forest! (Photo: Diana Watson)

Permaculture Sydney North (PSN) is a non-profit organisation that is completely run by volunteers and we need your help!

During our December meeting we will hold elections for members of the management committee (MC). It is vital that roles be filled for us to function as a group. To comply with official requirements we need, at an absolute minimum:

  • President
  • Vice President
  • Secretary
  • Treasurer

In addition, to function effectively and to provide all the wonderful activities that take place each year, the following important co-ordinator roles need filling:

  • Communications
  • Local groups
  • Living skills
  • Education
  • Public events & Shows
  • Garden
  • Advocacy
  • Library
  • Seed saving

Any PSN member is encouraged and most welcome to nominate for any role in 2018. Whilst some of the 2017 MC members may nominate to continue in their roles for next year, we know already that we need volunteers for the roles of secretary and co-ordinators for living skills and advocacy. Current MC members are happy to train new members in roles.

Why not talk to an MC member at our next meeting to see what you can offer? You can also email the whole MC on:

You can read more about the roles here. As you have all experienced at our Permabees, many hands make light work!

Cecilia Bird, President

Regular Monthly Events
PSN Monthly Gathering:

Film Screening of:
SEED The Untold Story

7pm Monday 15th May
Lindfield Community Centre

Few things on Earth are as miraculous and vital as seeds. They have been valued and treasured since the dawn of humankind.
And yet, in the last century, 94 percent of our seed varieties have disappeared.

This documentary follows passionate seed keepers protecting our 12,000 year-old food legacy. Farmers, scientists, lawyers, and indigenous seed keepers fight a battle to defend the future of our food from biotech chemical companies that control the majority of our seeds.

In a harrowing and heartening story, these reluctant heroes rekindle a lost connection to our most treasured resource and revive a culture connected to seeds. SEED features Vandana Shiva, Dr. Jane Goodall, Andrew Kimbrell, Winona Laduke, and Raj Patel.

“Ingredients of a classic tale: A beautiful, yet vulnerable protagonist, murder and devastation, corrupt villains, unsung heroes and an unshakable hope."

- Vue Weekly

You can read more about the film and see the trailer here. 

Free for members, small donation 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 film.

NOTE:  The speakers originally scheduled for November have had to postpone due to an unplanned hospital visit. Look out for them in 2018.

Living Skills Workshop: Ointments & Tinctures
2-4pm, Sat 18 Nov

Capture active medicinal substances & fragrances from plants with natural ingredients found in most homes & gardens.

Register here.

Assorted projects

9.30am-4pm, Sun 19 Nov

Help Liz to put her plan into action. There will be a range of tasks to do, which will be finalised & advertised soon.

Register here.

PNB Gathering:
SEED The Untold Story

7.15pm, Thur 23 Nov

See the film & take part in The Big Swap - seeds, books, CDs, pots, plants, garden tools, etc, &/or a plate of food to share.

More here.

News & Other Bits

Busy bees rehydrate with chilled water infused with fruit-salad-sage - yum! (Photo: Cecilia Bird).

Permabee - Thanks from a grateful Cecilia!

A big thank you to the team who turned up and worked so hard in my garden at the end of October. I hope you had a good time - I certainly did!

We changed the plan about a bit on the day. For one, the temperature by midday was rather warm to say the least! Secondly, we had some permies committed to events later in the day. With these factors in mind we skipped morning tea in favour of an early lunch and afternoon tea once the work was done.

We had a garden tour and there was even a toilet tissue test for those interested: Who Gives a Crap Premium v. Pure Planet. Must have been a secret ballot because I don’t know which came out best!

By the 2pm the team had:

  • rediscovered the front garden beds
  • cleared all the swales, refreshed them with mulch & weeded some bunds (photo right)
  • cleared access to the veggie patches & prepared a bed for planting
  • potted up various plants that had been growing in the 'wrong' place
  • weeded the garden path
  • raked up leaves from the lawn
  • trimmed back various salvias
  • cleaned out the chook pen
  • picked LOTS of little tomatoes.
I am most grateful for the transformation that was achieved & I am inspired to get back into it again!

Cecilia Bird, President

One of the many colourful street performers visits our stall (Photo: Nita Lo)

PSN at the Granny Smith Festival

The annual Granny Smith Festival took place on Saturday 21st October in Eastwood. Thousands of visitors flocked from near and far to see the parade, watch performers dance and sing throughout the day, and munch on a smorgasbord of culinary delights. 

The PSN stall was located on Rowe Street which is busy thoroughfare and was easy to find with our new high visibility flag. We had many visitors keen to troubleshoot gardening problems, learn about permaculture, or gaze at Izzy the chook who laid an egg amidst all the hubbub! The free cucumber seedlings were very popular with kids and quite a few adults also requested them. All of the showbags were sold in the morning along with plenty of plants and trees.

A big thank you to all the volunteers – Peter, Shawn, Jimmy, Diana, Nita, Sue and Margaret and to Wendy, Jimmy and Margaret for their lovely plants to sell.

Bridie Carr, Events & Shows

Give us today our daily bread...

Last month, in a workshop organised by the Ryde local group, some eager bakers learned how to make make bread. Peter Pez demonstrated how to make the dough and gave the crew some ideas for how to make creative bread forms. They sampled some bread Peter had baked earlier and took their bread home to bake later. As you can see from Nita's scrumptious looking loaf (photo left), all went well!

Peter Pez & Nita Lo

Where is Rowe?

Following a skype conversation with Rosemary (Rowe) Morrow and one of her contacts in Afghanistan, earlier this year, PSN agreed to support Rowe's work financially. We will report on her work regularly in this newsletter.

You may have read about her work teaching permaculture and mentoring people in war-torn regions like Afghanistan and Kashmir in the PSN August & September newsletters or heard her speak about New Frontiers in Permaculture at the Northern Beaches meeting last month.

This month Rosemary is attending the International Permaculture Convergence in India, and then visiting some projects in the region. PSN has donated $1500 towards her air fares to continue her great work. We wish Rowe all the best for her travels and teaching and look forward to seeing more of her work in 2018.

PSN Management Committee

Our next round of students investigate Jess & Phil's chicken house. (Photo: Diana Watson)

News & inspiration from our Education team

Introduction to Permaculture Course

We have completed 4 of our 10 weeks and are really enjoying the company of another wonderful group of enthusiastic students. Already, we have visited Jess and Phil’s garden with its solar-powered air-conditioned chicken house and outstanding gabion wall, Stephanie’s garden with her (final) solution to the problem of greedy possums (see the photo at the top of the newsletter), Peter Rutherford’s Eco Garden at Kimbriki which shows what can be done when building on a tip, and Di Evans' a wide selection of water-saving solutions from wicking pots and beds to frog ponds.

Our visits to different gardens are proving to be a great help for students as they can see permaculture in working gardens and see how problems can be solved. Armed with these ideas and solutions, that they will be able to include in the plans for their own gardens. Will you be coming to our next course?

ABC’s Gardening Australia Fact Sheets – Sharing Solutions

A useful source of information, and one of our best virtual friends, is the archive of Fact Sheets published by our wonderful ABC Gardening programme. This archive has fact sheets from 2002 to the present day. Mega good!!

You can learn a great deal from browsing this archive and you will soon be able to share your knowledge with your permie friends and family members.

You can type search terms into the Search box on the Gardening Australia's page then hit the Search Gardening button. You can also simply type your term plus ABC into a Google search. You will find links to fact sheets as well as transcripts from relevant TV episodes. As examples, try searching the following terms to see how much information the site contains:

  • land cress
  • integrated pest management
  • possums
  • gabion

When you see just how many results are listed, you'll realise what a wonderful resource the ABC has given us for our 8 cents per day!

If you would like more help on searching techniques, please let us know.

Our legacy and how you can contribute

In 2008,Bill Mollison told us that the most important thing that we should do is to document everything that we do. If you think about it, this is our opportunity to contribute to the body of knowledge and it will be our legacy to the next generation as it will provide evidence for people that permaculture really works.

To celebrate his Bill’s life and to add to his legacy, the Education Team would like to create a body of knowledge for PSN that will be a resource for the members. This will enable us to learn from each other, share our knowledge with a wider group of people, and evaluate and critically analyse the evidence. Have you already started? Are you taking photographs of your gardens and permaculture gardens that you visit? Are they labelled? Are you keeping a record of what is happening in your garden, balcony, or office space?

One way is to keep a permaculture diary in which you can record changes in your space, discoveries, plantings, fruiting dates, pest activities, rainfall events, and extreme weather events.

To start this off we invite you to create very short video records of your achievements illustrating a permaculture principle such as how you have solved a pest problem, or the plants around your new pond. We would like to show these at monthly meetings, local group meetings, and maybe permabees. We will create some scripts to help start you off.

These will make great Christmas gifts for grandma and grandad, and children could enjoy making them too.

Will you join us? Start small and share them with us.

Diana Watson and Di Evans, Education Team

  Battle of the Brush Turkey

On 23rd September a brush turkey decided to build his mound in Lyn's permaculture garden. In the weeks that followed, Lyn not only battled with the beast to protect her garden, she also battled with her own beliefs as she tried to maintain the principles of Care for Earth, Care for Others.

A brush turkey surveys its kingdom. (Photo: Di Donovan via ABC News)

When the brush turkey moved in, he took his nest-building materials – lucerne hay, compost, plants, ground covers, and leaf-litter – from all parts of my garden. Despite more suitable sites further down the backyard, which is mostly 'wild' and shaded, he was obsessed with the yacon patch and kept coming back to the more cultivated area of my veggie beds and fruit trees.

I read that there’s been an 'invasion' of brush turkeys in suburban gardens due to fox baiting. Brush turkey mounds can be huge – four metres wide and two metres deep. And, the experts said, when turkeys decide on a place for their mounds, they are extremely persistent.

For the last few years I have been protesting a development application next door, which could result in the loss of 62 trees, many of which are part of the endangered Sydney Turpentine Ironbark Forest. This new ‘development’ by the brush turkey became another experience of grief about the earth – more personal and complex than species or habitat loss, and smaller in scale, but grief nevertheless, because of the very personal and spiritual connection I have with this piece of earth. Shock, disbelief, horror, anger, frustration, vulnerability – I felt it all. I found myself watering the seeds of war inside me, as I thought constantly, day and night, about how to protect the garden and encourage the turkey further down the backyard.

I cut up two rolls of wire mesh to protect individual plants or larger areas. I made a scarecrow using a garden fork, my old grey top, and my gardening hat. Old bits of wood, tent pegs, bamboo stakes, netting, carpet underlay, date-palm branches - anything I could lay my hands on - was used to create barriers, hold mulch down, and protect plants. The turkey was also creative, energetic, and focussed.

From first daylight I patrolled, plotted, built, raked-up, and replanted, and I fell into bed each night exhausted - physically, mentally and spiritually. By day seven, I was a mess – I couldn’t enjoy time away with friends because I was so fearful of the destruction that would greet me on my return. My body suffered all the classic signs of stress.

But worse than that, I hated myself for my lack of integrity. I felt a fraud saying that I protect biodiversity and loved wildlife, care for the earth and care for others, while not wanting a brush turkey mound on my veggie patch. Nature-loving friends suggested a water pistol. My aversion to anything like a gun and my vow of non-violence were challenged. In week two, in utter despair, I obtained one.

Throughout all this intense high-energy time, there were some moments when I felt compassion and understanding, both for the turkey and for myself. I saw the wild creature I’d become, as I frantically chased the turkey away from the garden, and I felt ashamed, but softer and lighter too, through acknowledging this wild part of myself. Eventually I calmed down. The fire had burnt out.

There were also moments of grace with other creatures during this time. One morning I had a long conversation on the back verandah with a king parrot. Another day, a bandicoot, awakened by the turkey, looked me in the eyes. We looked at each other in stillness and with a kind of recognition, united by our fear and our belonging. And the tawny frog mouth, wise old spirit of this place, left a feather for me at the front entrance. These encounters saved me. They returned me to love.

Two weeks on, the turkey and I seemed reach a place of understanding, and I have space to reflect on what I’ve learnt from this experience. I’ve learnt how wholly consuming is that desire to protect what you love, whether a garden, a family member, values, or country. I’ve learnt how difficult it is to acknowledge dark, intense, uncomfortable feelings, and even more to find that open space where there’s tenderness and compassion, without judgment. I noticed how quickly I regarded the turkey as 'the enemy' because he threatened what I loved and valued. But I finally realised that the 'other' is really not separate from me at all.

I am the vulnerable plant, uprooted, broken, exposed by the brush turkey; and I am the brush turkey, creating a place to nourish life and growth.

Lyn Dundas, member & friend to brush turkeys

Do you have a story or some photos to share with other PSN members? The newsletter usually goes out in the first week of each month, but you can send me contributions anytime!

Cat Dorey, Newsletter Editor

MISSED SOMETHING? There are many more upcoming events listed on our website and lots more news & fun things on our Facebook group page.

Sign up for the Northern Beaches newsletter here.