I don’t even know where to start. Trees. Are. Incredible. I always felt it, but now I know it. Words, terms, information, observation and stories wound their way from the classroom, around Kay’s personal gardens, and through the Koanga Institutes food forests.
It’s funny what bits of information stick with different people, and I am often asking the others what fascinated them most during the day. Most answers differ, and shows the breadth of what we are covering (I am trying to get each one of them to write a day – no luck so far!).
A tree grows in two ways, completely independent of each other. One is up. The other is out. Depending on how much food (light) the tree is getting, will depend on how much it grows out that year. If you chop the tree, these years will be seen in the tree rings. That I was familiar with. But linking that to the idea that you could read those rings to understand certain things about its life was something else. Suddenly I saw my own years as rings. Saw the rings closer together where I wasn’t given, or providing myself, the right environment to grow. And the rings further apart where I was, and did. I have an inkling this year will look like an entirely new type of ring altogether.
In the permaculture design process there is what they call a Scale of Permanence. The more permanent the element, the earlier it appears in the process, and we are in the beginnings of making our way through this scale. Yesterday we started with Climate, Landform and Patterns. Today was Water, Access and Earthworks.
In the morning we were playing in the sand pit with Dan, and by afternoon we were crossing the stream to check out the Hill Block with Bob. As we walked the hills (thankful for those nutrient dense meals we are receiving), Bob told us stories, and showed us signs of early Maori “campgrounds”. As we observed the landform of the Hill block, the natural contours of the land revealed the opportunity for water catchment. Pairing this with the location of the hill block in relation to the village, from there the whole vision for this community began to materialise.
As Bob spoke, not only a vision for the land they occupy, but all which you could see with your eye, began to take shape. A way of designing with the land to provide everything that communities could possibly need while regenerating the landscape. In that moment, and again here as I type, I understand that this course is offering me practical tools to be part of a very real achievable solution of abundance. I am experiencing a very new feeling. The idea of designing for abundance that resonated with me, and set in motion getting involved with this course, is becoming empowered.
A run. It might sound simple but I had yet to get out of my gumboots in the first few days. Remnants of a cold – which Kay is blasting with garlic, lemon and chilli drink – hadn’t helped, but today I got up and hit the drive way. A 1k meandering drive that passes from the farmhouse along the river, past a small dairy block, and a grove of eucalyptus, to the road. 2k isn’t a long run by any means, but with first practical starting at 7.00, with wake up, run, yoga stretch and chores to fit in before hand, I’ll have to be happy with what I get!
The other evening session (which runs after dinner from 7.00 – 8.30) Dan introduced us to Holistic Management. For me it was a revelation. A way of identifying the vision of any group (individual/marriage/family/business/etc), what situations make up this vision, and what actions create these situations. Then taking any decision, putting it through this system, and seeing if it works with it – or not.
For instance, individually I want to be knowledgeable on ways to live a life that is not only sustainable, but regenerates the environment. So I need to put myself in situations that allow that, and be ready to learn. Aside from the information, and various other actions, a major factor to optimize my learning is exercise. There is no better way to clear my mind than getting the blood flowing. So shoes on at 6.15 it is.
*Morning practical was seeds with Kay. We got pack seeds, learn about seed saving, and even take peak in the seed room and see all these nutrient dense wonders with our own eyes.
PDC Day 3
Could it be possible my brain is reaching full capacity? Getting amongst the design side of the Design Process during the morning, it was great to see how and when the pieces of the puzzle start fitting together. Coming from a design (graphic) back ground, this part provided me a more seamless transition than other aspects so far.
By the afternoon we were being presented with three design projects.
Option one was Urban, and seemed like a very current option, as with most people living in urban environments, it will be an important avenue for permaculture in the future. Option 2 was a quarter acre on the Koanga land, bringing together the vision of a coupe currently living on the property. This seemed to align more with the lifestyle I lead in semi rural Raglan. Option 3 was the 15 hecter “River Block” recently reacquired by the Koanga Institute, to be developed as a resource for the proposed 150 member Koanga Village community.
With most of our examples over the past two days focusing on the quarter acre around our class, and a consistent unexplainable desire to put myself in the deep end, I went with the 15 hecter block. Myself and the 4 others in the team saw it as not only an opportunity to expand our learning into a whole new area, but Bob is also leading this project. Any one to meet Bob will soon discover he is a classic rural kiwi bloke who is very quick to have a laugh. An opportunity to experience more of this person, and the huge amount of knowledge he holds, was one we couldn’t pass up.
Is it any wonder my brain was full? Serve myself right. Turns out, as I write this a little later on Day 4, that all I needed was a sleep.
Day 2. Learning in the Rain.
I can see a pattern developing here. It goes – do something, eat something – and I am definitely not complaining. During our stay we follow the Western A Price way of eating, which Kay gave a talk on yesterday evening. Although I was interested in the principles of this diet, the story of food and gardening, and how these threads wound and grew throughout Kay’s life, was fascinating. Her path of discovery, and the links to indigenous cultures / knowledge is something stirring my interest of late. This idea that old cultures stories and traditions hold an innate knowledge of wellness (which are bit by bit being sciencified*), and that holding onto this knowledge is imperative to our health and well being*, is something which is wholeheartedly resonating with me.
Today the foundations of Permaculture Design began to be laid. The day started with a walk around the flat part of the property with Bob. Under grey skies, and over moist ground, we start to understand he sees with different eyes. After opening our young morning eyes (both literally and metaphorically), the pattern continues, and we are fed breakfast by Kay. Dan spent the rest of the day moving us between the classroom and the drizzling outdoors, questioning, doing, and laughing our way through each of the Permaculture Principles. For me the depth and breadth of the knowledge that Permaculture Designers come to hold is somewhere between overwhelming and impressive. And in a way I guess it provides an idea of just how much learning we have instore for us over the next two weeks. But the teachers don’t seem to be worried about our rate of information absorption, so I won’t either… It’s also hard to worry right now, as one of the Koanga interns is playing gorgeous guitar by the fire hearth while I sit here and summarize my day… and there goes the bell for dinner.
*I may have made this word up.
**Both humans and our environment
Signing up for a PDC at the Koanga Institute situated in Wairoa, I had no idea what to expect – my sister had no hesitation in using many cult references in the week up to my departure.
Excitement of what the experience could hold, overrode the fear of being married off to start a super race, and so I embarked on my travels. The drive in was incredible. I had to remind myself several times to watch the road, and not the white sheer cliffs plunging into the startling green river.
Arrival was a pitched tent, small introductions to the stream of arrivals, and a tired body filled with soul warming food. As I meandered my way into sleep, there between the pillow and the extra blanket pulled over my head to hold in any heat, was a smile.
The patter of rain drummed on the tent. By the time I edged my way into my white shoes, and manoeuvred myself out of the tent without getting any droplets into my abode, the rain had been replaced by mist. A quick slip into gumboots (sure those white shoes won’t be seen for the rest of my stay), a warm cup in my hand, I took in my surrounds. Fresh, simple majestic. The droplets of water captured on the ends of branches like little lights, inspired a photo. Sure there will be many of those moments to come.
Then the ride began. Beautiful food, introductions, purpose – What brought us here, What do we want from the course, What can we bring to the course. And a sense emerged that from all our unique walks, we had all began to see the world in a particular way, ask ourselves similar questions, and we are all here looking for solutions.
So Day 1 insights? I am inspired. Surrounded by intelligent, practical, deep, compassionate, like minded people from all around the globe. Willing and open teachers – both the course leaders and my fellow students. I am immersed in a positive environment that showcases all that is possible – composting toilets, fire stoked showers that run every other day, beautiful wholesome food every single meal. I move into Day 2 with an open heart and a freshly stimulated mind for what is to come.