It’s almost like the weather knows, the winds arrived today. As the change awaits us tomorrow we are being moved towards it with a blustery nudge from the direction of Norway. Perhaps the winds represent a much bigger change than just here on our little farm in Scandinavia, perhaps they signify something more complex, more global… Presentation Day has arrived.
Permanent markers are flying, pages flipped and functions stacked to food forests, chickens and compost loo’s. Everyone has their ‘busy brain’ face on. A few of the teams spend the morning finalizing their presentation order, some touching up SWOC charts and locations of related elements.
Our team is first, and as their client in this instance I introduce the site location and characteristics, our limiting factor of outgoing expenditure due to, and therefore a lack of, perennial crops and grains/cereal and our desire to regenerate and build topsoils. Taking us through the design Armando (Uruguay), Ana (Columbia/France) and Samuel (Nth Carolina/India) discuss the implementation of water management using a windmill donated by our neighbor and ferro cement tanks built on site as part of a workshop. There’s some Keyline Design applications, over which alley cropping systems of grains and fruit trees will be actioned. The protection of the existing riparian habitats and the possible introduction of holistically grazed dairy cows and chickens to assist soil regeneration are all presented and well received.
A more detailed perspective sees the introduction of banana, Photinia and cacti plantings along edges prone to fire hazard, signed adventure trails to provide exciting and educational opportunities for guests, volunteers and residents, and the extension of the food forest near the main housing area in a pattern sensitive to the ancient ‘Songline’ that runs through the property.
Our group had discussed striving for a practical balance or integrative design strategy that would see all productive objectives working in harmony with the spiritual context of the community. It was during our design development that I stumbled across this:
“As Gill says, "every man is called to give love to the work of his hands. Every man is called to be an artist." The small family farm is one of the last places - they are getting rarer every day - where men and women (and girls and boys, too) can answer that call to be an artist, to learn to give love to the work of their hands. It is one of the last places where the maker - and some farmers still do talk about "making the crops" - is responsible, from start to finish, for the thing made. This certainly is a spiritual value, but it is not for that reason an impractical or uneconomic one. In fact, from the exercise of this responsibility, this giving of love to the work of the hands, the farmer, the farm, the consumer, and the nation all stand to gain in the most practical ways: They gain the means of life, the goodness of food, and the longevity and dependability of the sources of food, both natural and cultural. The proper answer to the spiritual calling becomes, in turn, the proper fulfilment of physical need.”
― Wendell Berry, Bringing it to the Table: Writings on Farming and Food
In the feedback Richard highlights existing areas of semi-dense Eucalyptus plantings that might be utilised as coppice and to grow mushroom crops. "I'd suggest using what you've got, this looks like a great resource you can stack crops into, I'd be cautious to make major changes to such a nicely establishing system. Whats the leverage point so you can do as little as possible to steer succession in beneficial way?"
The team did an outstanding job of focussing on the mission statements to address all of their clients’ desires and needs. Totally doable I reckon! Richard reflects that this is an important element he is looking for; actionable & do-able solutions worked into a good relationship with the landshape & form. Allowing the landscape to pattern our design.
Next up is one of the neighbours farms, Patrick, a young guy from Stockholm who wants to build up productive elements of his land and to make it more attractive as a recreational destination for guests of a future event location or B’n’B. Patrick has a penchant for all things Viking and so the team blended this into their development to create Valhalla Farm.
They discuss opportunities for intensive berry growing, water treatment and possible long boat building workshops. Patrick’s good friend Jonathon, who is one of the students on the course, is very keen to see this design come to fruition and that Patrick will be very pleased and even more motivated to get the plans moving. It's a great idea, creating a niche selling point, creating an experience that can make an enterprise of this scale viable. Talk of traditional Torv (peat moss) low cost housing for guests to stay in a rural forest setting, old traditional food & handcraft workshops brings this idea alive, fantastic!
The crew on the urban design project in Brussels have a wonderful scheme of harvesting rainwater, accompanied by grey- water treatment and a compost toilet. They plan to use espaliered fruit trees along the warm western and southern facing walls, producing yields within the boundaries of a smart & culturally appropriate development. Simple microclimate placements, stacking of functions; good design can be simple and elegant...
Two teams who worked on the same sight both introduce their projects and one after the other, walk us through their proposals of a large piece of gently graded land in northern Sweden. There are financially productive components of a café and fruit & vegetable stall, supported by well managed annual garden systems that use rainwater for irrigation and seed saving for future cropping. The husband of the team, Max, scores a woodwork barn to practice making useful elements for the site.
The break sees the delivery of a very special afternoon fika (tea) as Paulo celebrates his birthday. We looove birthdays here at Ridgedale and from the photo below, you can see why.
The final team has a very unique site that is the grounds of a nunnery in Gotenberg. The team describes working on not just the on-site Permaculture designs, but also the desire to assist the nuns build a presence and work on alternative means of raising funds to ensure their needs, which are few, can be met. There is consideration of disability access and crop production to support the reduction of outgoing costs from the site. They even work on creating a path of divinity in the form of the infinity symbol.
The designs are completed, the presentations’ a success. Richard is thoroughly impressed at the breadth of elements and actionable solutions provided in all the designs. A lot of creative outpouring has gone on these past days. He asks us how we felt about the process. “It was interesting to see how much time and work goes into doing an integrated design” says Marcus. Often this is the case in a PDC, that there is a lot of information trying to be expressed on paper and in coherent dialogue in just a few days. For me, this is the point where people get to see the difference between poor planning and sound, investigative, well thought out design. It’s good to go through all the ideas on paper, to visualise how things will look on the ground, over time, and how they will be built. Thinking through the work flow of tree plantings, natural building supplies and construction, volunteers and a really big one, the introduction of animals. I can see that the students are all activated by this afternoons presentation’s and are totally empowered to head off and start repairing the world… one garden at a time.
The evening of course is the one and only, world famous ‘(No) Talent Show’ and I’m not sure how to describe some of the acts, but I’ll do my best. After a field size group hug for Juan, we start with the hymn of Värmland by Jonathon to really set the scene and place us on our site. Of course it’s sung in Swedish, “What does it mean though?”, says Richard “ahhm… it says Värmland is a nice place.” Concise.
Sylvia develops our Italian language skills using compromising conversational methods, Marcus explains some very interesting body facts and Juan recites Chaucer from the Introduction to the Canterbury Tales. Steffi gets us up and active with a game of ‘Pigs & Chickens’ and then I’m up next with an Aboriginal Dreamtime story about Maroochy, Coolum and Ninderry that explains the mythical heritage behind some of the natural landmarks of my homeland.
The Max the Amazing Dog Whisperer makes an appearance followed by a Ridgedale Beats session. Armando enchants us with incredibly powerful perma poetry and Stefan gets us syncing mental rhythm with a head bending session of the ‘count through’ game. Basically everyone sits is a circle and as a group we have to count around. The kicker is that, starting from ‘1’ each person only gets to say a number, any number, once. If you say a number at the same time as someone else though, the game resets. We get there reasonably quickly and decide to test ourselves by counting backwards. This actually works much easier and it’s very interesting to hear the group quickly develop minor adjustments and solutions to get us to our objective. Paulo serenades us with a Portugese melody and then we are teased with a fashion show inspired by the foraging team’s performances over the last two weeks…. hilarious!! Not sure if they’ll make it to Paris any time soon though.
Darren steps up to show us a ye olde dance routine from the early twentieth century, learned by steel workers who running short of precious metals due to the Kings insanity with steam robots (this is Darren’s story by the way) and had to forage for supplies from Magpie’s. Now to do this they would wear a steel helmet of sorts and perform a dance. After revealing this story to us Darren gets us to beat clap and then disappears, only to return wearing a steel bucket on his head, proceeding to then rhythmically bang the helmet with some metal spoons. Not sure of it’s historical accuracy but it was pretty bloody funny. The show concludes with a rousing number from Jon and Samuel, who took note of the missing cultural patterns from today’s youth networks, and wrote an instructive ditty on how to build 18 day compost to a tune resembling rowdy Irish folk ballads.
The night carries on into the wee hours as we share life stories and predictions for each other around the fire. It’s a celebration of two big weeks here at Ridgedale, new friends and new ideas. These are some of the kindest people I have ever met, I find that on these journey’s most people are. Strange, but in some ways not surprising how the folks on this path are so open to helping others, to being of service and benefit. Bless all my new mates.
Some words from the participants...
"This has been way beyond my expectations...."
"This course is intense in a good way, with excellent & inspiring teaching..."
"The approach to fuse Permaculture, Keyline Design & Holistic Management seems fundamental for anyone wanting to steer ecosystemic regeneration..."
"This has been the best investment in my life!"
"Amazing farm, people, core team, teacher, cook & accommodation..."
Like us on FB Below for regular updates
Stay up to date with customized updates you want to receive