by Tamara Griffiths and Delvin Solkinson
After a long year apart, and of planning and plotting, permie friends Delvin and Tamara descended upon Zaytuna farm to begin the first leg of their Planetary Permaculture Pilgrimage teacher trainings with the fabled Geoff Lawton.
Geoff, Delvin and Tamara
Zaytuna farm is in the humid tropics in northern New South Wales, Australia. We are both out of our home climates. We don’t recognise the weeds and try a few things gingerly. They taste terrible — that’s not the plant we thought it was. The birds are different, the frogs are different and the sun rises at 5am and sets at 8pm in November.
Some things are similar — chickens, the ducks, other humans on their permaculture journey. We are all at different stages of learning and teaching but we share deeply held ideals and ethics: Care of the earth, Care of people and Share the surplus.
A sub tropical swale – out of our comfort zones
We wake up to a chorus of tropical bird songs under a canopy of wide open blue sky. Truly, we were not in Kansas anymore. Walking along a path next to vegetables and fruit trees of all description, the morning began for 25 earthly looking permies bright eyed with anticipation for the week to come. The class we have joined is mainly interns for the 10-week program they run here at the farm. Gathering together in a hexagonal cob classroom are a global group of people from Australia, North America, the Caribbean, Europe and Asia.
The new kitchen garden – where Nadia gardens with students “in silence”
In the morning we meet the chef who lets us know that all the organic meat, fish and dairy served over the course would come from the farm. Most of the vegetables and fruit are picked the same day as they are served. The farm is entirely solar powered with no energy inputs from outside. Once we are comfortable knowing about the wonderfully organic local food, Geoff tells us about all the deadly animals on the farm including a wide selection of poisonous snakes as well as ticks.
Hungry permies devour the home grown, milked and killed poison-free food
After a rousing introduction along with a host of worksheets outlining the course to come, we utilize the wonders of the web to link classrooms with a PDC course in one of the driest deserts of the world — in Chile, 2400 feet above sea level, and which gets about 5 mm of rainfall a year. Live with video Skype, the students exchanged information as Geoff flips through The Designers’ Manual noting Bill Mollison’s comments on extreme dryland strategies.
That’s the Chilean students on screen, with Geoff doing a live talk with them!
When asked about the most successful permaculture techniques on their course, the Chilean teacher said it was the repetition of the core permaculture principles in different ways. Working in small groups for design and dynamic conversations was also noted as a highlight of their experience. With this exercise we had a very unique teaching experience at the very start of what was already a fascinating course flow.
The first afternoon Geoff broke the ice by having all of us doing a 1-minute presentation on something we felt comfortable with, on film! Everyone did a wonderful job, learning lots, and Geoff took great notes to give us feedback. What we thought would be unpleasant turned out to be a fun and positive experience sharing in success and challenges with our group of new future teachers. It felt like we have all gelled together really nicely.
A highlight of the day was afternoon tea with milk and cream straight from the cows here. Real fresh cream on our scones! It appears Tamara is not allergic to real, raw milk like she is to the commercial stuff. Another highlight was hanging out with Nadia, Geoff and Latifa — their baby girl — at the end of the day, catching up with our lives. Latifa is a gorgeous girl — she had been so sick last year but now she is almost walking and a happier baby we have never met.
Zaytuna cream on scones
Tamara testing out the scones and cream
In the evening all the students met up in the common room to critique ourselves on the TV. Sharing a round of constructive criticism and confidence-building feedback was another great bonding experience. It was quite amazing how much it felt we had all grown together in just one day and how supportive everyone was of each other. Now cozied up in our tents, under the light of an almost full moon, we fell asleep to the sound of frogs and cicadas singing to the stars. What an amazing first day!
Visit our personal blogs at:
We are very excited that there is still space in the inspiring courses coming up at Crystal Waters with Robin Clayfield November 14 – 19 and 21 as well as Rosemary Morrow on November 24 – 28. Join with us to learn from two of the most experienced women teachers in the tradition. Both Rosemary and Robin have written books on teaching permaculture and will help balance your teaching practice with the feminine perspective. Come learn many creative techniques and strategies for teaching permaculture with passion!
Email us at Delvin (at) cosm.org or Tamara (at) moonrisepermaculture.com.au