Happy Little Accidents

Last October (2010) I travelled from the Gold Coast to Melbourne to do my first PDC, with Geoff Lawton and Bill Mollison. What an awesome experience!

During the course Geoff mentioned having “Happy little accidents” in permaculture. Those unexpected results from events that provide a positive outcome. Of course, at the time I nodded and ‘got it’ intellectually, but recently I have experienced a few of these HLAs myself. (I work in IT so it is mandatory that I use acronyms to retain my geekiness.)

One HLA I recently experienced involved my driveway. My property has a fairly steep bitumen driveway, so the good folks who built it were smart enough to put drains at various points across the driveway to slow down and divert storm water. If not for these, my office located at the bottom of the driveway would probably be flooded after every rain event.

This is the view looking up from my office (note my trusty wheelbarrow, it is there for a reason).

It turns out these drains not only divert storm water (which, incidentally, I feed into swales on the side of the driveway), but the drains also collect a lot of organic matter which breaks down into a magnificent compost over a few months.

The drains are very effective at collecting this matter and the quickly fill up. So every 3-4 months, I clean them out, getting 2-3 barrows full of ready made compost!

The drains are also nice, natural worm farms too! Talk about a happy accident!

From here it goes straight onto the veggie garden. Nice!

A life changing HLA

HLAs can be small little joys like my driveway experience, but they can also turn out to be life changing events.

Some weeks back I saw an article on this site asking for English Permaculture teachers for SPERI in Vietnam. Thinking this was an opportunity to help teach a PDC and have a couple of weeks in Vietnam I contacted the author of the article, Jonathon Chan, to let him know of my interest. I explained that I currently work in IT but have “seen the light”, and that I’m in the process of trying to change my career to work full time in something permaculture-related, whatever that might be. The money might be better in IT, but the rewards from living and breathing permaculture far outweigh any monetary loss.

As I don’t have any experience (yet) teaching permaculture I wasn’t really expecting to hear back from them but it turns out my IT background was of interest to SPERI. They have a number of requirements I could help with. In return I could also spend part of my time doing permaculture work with them. So… drum roll…. we (meaning my whole family), are now planning to go and work for SPERI in Vietnam for (at least) the next 6 months. Hopefully longer!

So, from what I thought might be a two week trip, if I was lucky, has resulted in an HLA that has turned into a life changing opportunity.

My wife and I have resigned from our jobs and we are in the process of sorting out the many things we need to do so we can leave for Vietnam. For example, trying to rent our house here in the Gold Coast hinterland to someone who will be willing to take care of our animals (dog, cats, chickens, ducks) while we are away.

We hope to head to Hanoi mid-March. Of course I will report our adventures there so stay tuned!

Happy Little Accidents can turn into major, life changing events, so keep an eye out for them on your permaculture path. I’m sure that as they happen for you, life will offer more excitement, fulfillment, fun, and happiness.

Further Reading:


  1. Happy accidents, indeed. I’ve spent significant time in Korea and look forward to applying permaculture there should I return. We also packed up and left Korea a couple years ago, just leaving it to the will o’ the gods, to do some permaculture back home in the States. We know well what you are experiencing at the moment.

    We wish you safe travels and happy permaculturing!


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