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Olduvai III: Catacylsm
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A Homemade Vegan Version of Natural & Organic Fertilizer


Last year I worked a couple of gardens with a friend/boss, Buck, who has been cultivating these spaces for decades. Though some of his techniques don’t jive with my permaculture sensibilities, such as tilling every year and walking in garden beds, on many things we were in lock-step. For example, once our seedlings had popped up a few inches high, we used leaves that had been piled the previous autumn to mulch the entire garden.

Up until then, I’d been dismayed with the amount of weeding we were doing each week. Once we’d applied the mulch, I asked why we’d not done it from the outset. Buck told me he preferred to keep a closer eye on the young seedlings—It was easier to amend the soil or address obvious issues without mulch being in the way—and thought of the early weeds, many of which were “chopped” into the soil, as nutrients for the plants. At the end of the growing season, he tilled the leaf-mulch into the garden to replace nutrients.

I have to admit, despite being a proponent of no-dig gardens and cultivating soil life (i.e. not killing it with a tiller), Buck’s technique had a lot about it that seemed sustainably conceived. Leaves had to be raked from the lawn and driveway (Buck is a caretaker for these properties) in the autumn; gardens had to be grown in spring. It made a lot of sense to me to do it this way. Other than adding a little soil enhancement to the hole when planting, the garden’s fertility was set-up to cyclically revive itself.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Polyculture Market Garden Study–Results From Year 4–2018



In this post you will find an overview of the trial garden and the polycultures we are growing, a description of what we record and the 4th year results from the trial. You can find results from previous seasons here.

First of all we’d like to say a huge thank you to the team of volunteers that joined us for the study this year and that make it possible for us to carry out our experiments and research. It was a pleasure to work together with you. Thank you Victoria Bezhitashvili, Angela Rice, Malcolm Cannon, Elise Bijl, Alex Camilleri, Daniel Stradner, Emilce Nonquepan, Ezekiel Orba and Chris Kirby Lambert.

It was a great a mix of people from all over the world including university students, a crypto fund manager, ex-nintendo web editor and market gardeners. Thank you all for your valuable input, it was our pleasure to host you and we look forward to seeing you again some day.

The Polyculture Study 2018 Team


Location: Bulgaria, Shipka
​Climate: Temperate
Köppen Climate Classification – Dfc borderline Cfb
USDA Hardiness Zone: 5b – 7a
Latitude: 42°
Elevation: 565 m
Average Annual Rainfall: 588.5 mm
Prevailing Wind: NW & NE
Garden Name: Aponia – Polyculture Market Garden


The six longer beds in the left hand corner of the photo on the right (the Aceaes) are the trial beds, the focus of this study.You can find the location of the Polyculture Market Garden on google maps here (labelled as Aponia on our Project map)

Garden area: 256.8 m2
Cultivated beds area: 165.6 m2
Paths: 50 cm wide – 91.2 m2
Bed Dimensions – 23 m x 1.2 m  Area – 27.6 m2 per bed
Number of beds: 6

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Humanure Part 2: Dealing With It


In part 1(1) of this article I explored a little into why humanure is beneficial to the planet, including the need to replenish our aquifers and for people to have access to safe drinking water, the high phosphorous content of human poo compared to the finite and dwindling supply of phosphate rock as an agricultural product, and the reconnection of the ‘human nutrient cycle’ (2). In this part I will look more deeply into the different ways you can safely use humanure, and make some practical suggestions for beginning the process of redressing the human nutrient balance, even while we live within an unbalanced system.

Ways to deal with our crap

In ‘The Humanure Handbook’ (2) , Joseph Jenkins points out that we as a species have four different ways to deal with human excrement:

  1. To treat it as a waste product and dispose of it – this includes all water-based sanitation techniques such as flush toilets. As mentioned in part 1, this method ends up contaminating water even if the sewage is later treated, exacerbates the spread of water-borne diseases, and ignores the principle of ‘Produce No Waste’.
  2. To use it unprocessed in agriculture – at the time of the Handbook’s publication (1999) this was apparently still a common practice in parts of Asia (2). As you may guess, spreading unprocessed human waste on fields can be quite a large health risk because of the pathogens which are present in fresh humanure. This practice, euphemistically known as ‘night soil collection’ (3) , has apparently now been banned in many countries although there are some reports of people continuing to use fresh human waste, or ‘faecal sludge’ on their crops, for example in India (4) .

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…


Excerpt From “De-growth in the Suburbs, A Radical Urban Imaginary.”


Over the next 4 weeks we will be sharing with you excerpt from Samuel Alexander and Brendan Gleeson’s new book, “Degrowth in the Suburbs: A Radical Urban Imaginary”.

This book addresses a central dilemma of the urban age: how to make suburban landscapes sustainable in the face of planetary ecological crisis.  The authors argue that degrowth, a planned contraction of overgrown economies, is the most coherent paradigm for suburban renewal. They depart from the anti-suburban sentiment of much environmentalism to show that existing suburbia can be the centre-ground of transition to a new social dispensation based on the principle of enlightened material and energy restraint.

Prelude: The Great Resettlement

This book opens, as it must, by acknowledging that the human species stands at the precipice of self-made destruction. At the very hour when modern humanity arrived at the pinnacle of triumph – a global market economy promising riches for all—the skies have been darkened by the terrible spectres of ecological and social threat. Global warming is only one of these storm clouds, but this alone has the potential to lay waste to our species, as well as most others. At the same time, vast oceans of debilitating poverty surround small islands of unfathomable plenty, exposing the violent betrayal of the growth agenda, euphemistically (or just deceptively) known in public discourse as ‘sustainable development’. This is a race leading towards an abyss, both enabled and entrenched by a sterility of imagination.

The late German scholar Ulrich Beck spoke of how triumph and crisis simultaneously emerge and remerge in a world pervasively and con- tinuously remade by capitalist modernisation.

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Backyard Chickens, and the Interconnectedness of All Things, Part 3


This article is Part 3 of a Series that is mostly about chickens. It’s not a how-to-care-for-chickens article, but a how-to-appreciate-the-specialness-of-chickens article.

If you are interested only in chickens and would like to read about the funny things one of our roosters gets up to, this article will be fine to read by itself.

But if you missed the earlier articles in the series, and you’re interested in what backyard chickens have to do with the interconnectedness of all things, you’ll need to go back to the beginning of Part 1.


Roosters are gentle, generous, and protective, particularly as they get older, feel they have their place well established, and don’t have to compete with other roosters for space or mates.

They show the hens all the good things to eat that they find, calling them and sharing the food in a similar way to how a mother hen shares with her chicks. And they come running to defend the hens when they hear one in distress.

Rooster and hens, midday siesta

In our flock of about 30 hens, there are currently three adult roosters. The oldest has his own family group of hens who go with him to forage in the same areas each day, to rest in the same shady spots, to dust bath in their designated dust baths.

The other two are younger, and very different. One, a large white rooster who stars in the stories I’ll share below, seems to be where-ever there is food to share with hens, or where-ever there are good spots for hens to lay eggs.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

5 HA Polyculture Farm Design–Suhi Dol Revisited


Paul Alfrey from Balkan Ecology Project shares with us his observations and thoughts in regards to a visit he made to a farm he designed and how it slowly developed into a polyculture of fruit trees, aquaculture and vegetable gardens. 

Last week Dylan and I set off on a road trip to discover the flora and fauna of the North East of Bulgaria. Our first stop was to Catherine Zanev ‘s farm in Todorovo, North Bulgaria. As those of you familiar with our project may recall, this was a farm I designed in 2013. I had not visited the place for some time and was very excited to see how the plans had emerged into reality.

Catherine’s goals for the plot were to create a polyculture farm with focus on producing fruit for juicing, to include vegetable production for a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) scheme and to experiment with dye plants. The design was complete by 2015 and implementation began that year.

The 5 ha polyculture plot Suhi Dol on the right, locally practiced intensive monoculture farming on the left

The design concept for Suhi Dol was to create an agroforestry system of “Belts” that are comprised of mixed species fruit trees, soft fruits and nitrogen fixing shrubs planted in “Rows” under-storied with support plants, herbs and perennial vegetables. Between the rows are the “Alleys”. The Alleys have potential to be used for growing hay, cereals, vegetables, herbs or rearing pasture raised poultry such as chickens or turkeys. Integrated throughout the belts and around the perimeter are various beneficial habitats to enhance biodiversity. The designed system is an elaboration of Alley Cropping and is based on tried and tested models of our small scale forest garden systems scaled up.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

How to Green the Desert: Europe’s Heatwave and Some Holistic Suggestions


In the Northern Hemisphere, the balance of light is turning ever more towards darkness as we approach the Autumn Equinox. This is following a summer which in many places was unusually hot and dry(1, 2). This is perhaps not unexpected; climate change scientists have been predicting extreme temperature spikes for a number of years(3). However, it seems that a lot of farmers were nevertheless unprepared and many crops have been lost(2). Such occurrences can be seen as unfortunate; but can also serve as lessons for us. When you look at the factors exacerbating aridity, it seems clearer than ever that industrial farming is ill-equipped to deal with adaptation. This article will explore a little what happened in the heatwave, particularly in the UK and look at an example of a permaculture site which survived unharmed.

Dry continent

Throughout Europe, rainfall in the summer of 2018 was so low that many places were reported as having droughts. While some of the affected areas of the drought were wild places, such as the forest fires which swept through the coniferous forests of Norway and Sweden in June and July(4), the main losses were from the farming industry. Both Lithuania and Latvia declared national states of emergency in July(2, 5). Germany and Poland were reported as experiencing severe losses in wheat production(2), with many farmers in Germany resorting to destroying their crops since they did not have the resources to continue watering them(2). Many cattle farmers, such as in the UK, had to use their winter supply of animal food to feed their cows(6), since the grass had all withered and dried, creating a temporary solution and more problems in the months to come.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

What Might Buildings, Settlements and Even Regions Look Like Through the Lens of Permaculture Design? Part 2


This is part 2 of 2 of a transcript of a talk given by Paul Jennings to the recent SBUK Big Straw Bale Gathering. Paul has built his straw-bale family home on a ‘One-Planet Development’ smallholding in Wales (costing £12,000).

You can read part 1 in this link.


Site design improves building function. Working from patterns of landscape design and land use, we work to details, like how our buildings fit into the landscape. From pattern to details is a technique of nesting one pattern or design in another, a higher order system. For example: a bioregional pattern to localities; localities to site developments; site landscape developments to buildings, gardens or orchards; house to conservatory; conservatory to watering system or composting process; watering system to plant species choice or gardening practice.

Credit: Paul Jennings

Hopefully then, you’ll see that design of good buildings, the sort which we might readily call “ecological”, cannot really begin with just building design. By definition the ecological must be linked in a complex web of relationships to both higher and lower order systems. If ecology is your thing (and it should be your thing) then the short phrase which is your house makes no sense unless combined in a sentence which refers both to landscape and how you deal with your bodily wastes, or what you use to clean your worktops, or how much of your own food you grow.

So let’s place our buildings in an understood and designed landscape where windbreaks reduce our energy needs, and where zonal design reduces work and helps us to create self-sustaining abundant household and settlement economies of the sort we are going to need.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Learning More on How to Think About Soil

Seedling & Soil


Obviously, I’ve not been unaware of the importance of healthy soils, and by happenstance, I’ve probably even managed to make a good deal of it. But, my technique has largely been based on adding a steady supply of organic carbon and nitrogen matter, mostly in the form of brown leaves, boxes and newspaper to layers of manure, household veggie scraps, and fresh cut greens. I stack them atop earth and begin building layers of soil, usually doing an initial cover crop of legumes that get chopped-and-dropped. I probably would have stopped to learn more before now had the system not worked—though slow—as well as it does.

But, this morning I learned a new way—very practical and familiar—of looking at soil. Firstly, Lawton explained the necessities of minerals beyond just NPK, using a wonderful analogy with the modern food system and its effects on people. Then, he explained pH balance, something I’ve never spent a lot of time addressing, save for avoiding certain things that have been reported to me as overly acidic.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Perennial Polycultures-The Biomass Belt: Fertility Without Manure



We’ve been looking into fencing our plots, and how to meet fertility demands of the establishing perennial crops such as fruits, nuts, herbs and perennial vegetables without relying on animal manures and imported compost, and have come up with a polyculture that may meet both of these needs that we call the biomass belt.


The biomass belt is a perennial polyculture dedicated to growing mulch and fertilizer fodder that can apply to annual and perennial crops. It’s a very simple closed system that can quickly provide a supply of nutrient dense liquid fertiliser or nutrient dense mulch material as well as valuable habitat.


The polyculture is composed of mineral accumulating comfrey in raised beds, Nitrogen fixing ground cover sown into the pathways and a Nitrogen fixing hedgerow. Local native herbaceous annuals and perennials are also encouraged to grow within the hedgerow.

Illustration by Georgi Pavlov - www.georgipavlov.net
Illustration by Georgi Pavlov – www.georgipavlov.net

The comfrey is grown in raised beds for biomass and can be cut from 4 – 7 times each year with the material being used to make liquid fertiliser or used directly as mulch. The deeply rooted comfrey mines nutrients deep in the subsoil that would otherwise wash away with the underground soil water or remain inaccessible to other plants. Some of these nutrients are relocated within the comfrey leaf biomass. As the biomass is cut and applied as the mulch or converted into liquid fertiliser, the nutrients are delivered back to the top soil and again accessible to crops and other plants.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

DIY Aquaponic PVC Garden

aquaponic 1 - feat


Do you like fish? How about gardening?

If you said yes to both of these questions, you’ll definitely love this project!

The Aquaponic PVC Garden is powered by water pumps that push water up from a fish tank, up a higher pipe where the plants are, and lets gravity do its work by letting the water drip back into the same fish tank.

If you do not know what aquaponics is, it’s a method of growing plants in water using the nutrients of the waste of fish or any aquatic animals thus also cleaning the water as it is cycled back. It is a very good project if you like taking care of fish, or plants, but simply do not have time to monitor them both.

This project revolves around making your own garden with materials that you can find in your local hardware store.

Gardening proves to be a tedious task for some people who don’t have time to water their plants and monitor them every time. Most of these people took that task and revolutionized gardening by making self-watering systems. But this isn’t like any of those systems. It might look similar at first glance, but the noticeable difference is the fact that the plants in this system get their nutrients from the fish waste in the reservoir.

Here’s a quick guide on making this project on your own.

You Will Need


• 2x 10” long PVC Pipes cut in half or 4x 5” long ones
• 4x 90° PVC Elbows
• 4x PVC Caps (size dependent on the PVC)
• 2x Fish tanks
• 2x Water pumps
• 28x Drinking cups (with the potted plants of your choosing)
• A hand drill (for creating holes on the pipe) with hole saw bit
• A wooden stand (frame for your project)
• And lastly, FISH!

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Save Our Soils

IMG_9379 feat


Less than thirty per cent of the world’s topsoil remains in fair or acceptable condition. The fragility of this vital layer can be illustrated through a simple comparison: if one imagines the earth as an orange, the extremely thin topsoil layer is no thicker than the shine on the skin of that orange. An astonishing variety of creatures rely on this ‘shine’ for all of their basic necessities.

Our growing knowledge about soil has formed the basis of new soil services, soil analyses, and many well-intended soil conservation attempts, yet we are still losing soil at an ever-increasing rate. If this trend continues for much longer, our current form of society will eventually collapse – and mainly as a result of practices as simple as over tilling.

At the same time, soil is being damaged irreparably by salinisation, for example resulting from the clear-cutting of forests that are often far away. There are only a few places in natural systems in which soils are well conserved: uncut forests; under shallow lakes and ponds; native grasslands populated by perennials; and mulched and non-tillage agricultural production systems.

Image Courtesy of Nadia Lawton
Image Courtesy of Nadia Lawton


Although this situation may seem extremely gloomy, there is hope in the form of numerous sustainable approaches to soil reconditioning, maintenance and rehabilitation. Surprisingly, amateur gardeners and farmers – not scientists with big fancy labs and federal research grants – are doing most of the real research. Moreover, these people are achieving results: creating high quality soil through water control, modest aeration, and the assemblage of specific plants and animals. And this is done with careful consideration of the sequence of these treatments.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Compost Worm Experiment

Compost Worm Experiment 01


Every three weeks we have access to 80 to 100 kg of insect castings. These castings are from Meal worms, Cockroaches and Crickets. The waste is manure and leftover feed which is pollard and similar products. We use the waste in different ways and as the material is very high in nitrogen there is a need to consider the best way to approach the management processes. Usually I have been putting the waste into a chicken cell and then adding sawdust to it and the chickens process it. However I won’t put it in the cell if it is less than 3 weeks before planting so that the high nitrogen has had a chance to be processed out. So at times when its our turn to pickup the “bug poop”, as we call it we need to find some other use for it. Today I set up an experiment to see if compost worms will process it. I know that black soldier fly will process the material and I have designs and ideas to use them, just not the time at the moment.

I set up a half poly drum that has a drainage hole in the bottom and put a bag of the bug poop in , added some water to moisten the material and then added some compost worms with some of their castings and mulch that they were living in. I will monitor their process and see if it is to their liking. If they go well then I will set up a bigger system. We will feed the worms to the chickens to supplement their diet and hopefully increase the egg production.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Vermicomposting–A Great Way to Turn the Burdens Into Resources

Vermicomposting 01



Latin word ‘Vermi’ means worm; thus ‘Vermicomposting’ refers to composting with worms. In vermicomposting, various organic waste materials are broken down by using worms, bacteria, and fungi. These organisms are nature’s vitally useful tools to decompose organic materials. So, vermicomposting is a process that boosts up nature’s process of decomposing organic waste materials and produces a very useful end product.

Vermicompost, the end product of vermicomposting process, is a heterogeneous mixture of decomposed organic wastes, bedding materials, worm castings, decomposed worms as well as other decomposer organisms, worm cocoons etc. The worm castings, one of the major components of vermicompost, contain lower levels of contaminants and higher levels of nutrients than the organic wastes do before vermicomposting. Vermicompost is rich in many water-soluble nutrients which makes it an excellent organic fertilizer.


In optimum conditions worms consume huge amount of organic wastes in a day, as much as their own weight at least. After consumption, they take their nourishment from the micro-organisms residing in the wastes; and when they excrete their casts contain an increased number of micro-organisms.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

PRI-Natural Fertilisers and Nursery

Natural Fertilisers and Nursery feat


This is an interesting look at some of the systems that we have running at the Permaculture Research Institute.

Olduvai IV: Courage
In progress...

Olduvai II: Exodus
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