Sunday, February 25, 2007

Spring Garden Bargains

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Permaculture Courses in OH, VA and IN, '07

Other courses / workshops for 2007

5 Weekend Permaculture Design Course:
Sustainability Strategies for the Blue Ridge

near Afton, VA
This course is sold out but taking reservations for next year. Consider one of the other courses below.
March 2-4, 16-18, 30-April 1, 13-15, 27-29
with Peter Bane, Dave Jacke, Dave O'Neill, and Christine Gyovai.
$895 fee includes tuition, meals, materials. Lodging options extra.
For more information about the course including registration, directions, and faculty contact Christine Gyovai at 434-982-6464 or

This Permaculture Design Course lays the foundation for understanding the workings of natural systems and for designing human environments that produce food, shelter, and energy. It also provides participants with models of community development and extension by which they can create networks of support for themselves and empower others to do the same. The course provides tools to help design and develop an individual's urban or rural property in a sustainable manner, revitalize local communities, and help restore ecological balance. Permaculture promotes land use systems that work with natural rhythms and patterns to create sustainable cultivated ecosystems. Participants will learn how to design and build gardens, homes, and neighborhoods that model living ecosystems. By understanding patterns in nature students will learn how to grow food, manage water catchment and storage, utilize renewable energy and build community.

This course covers themes such as: ecological systems understanding, organic food production, natural soil improvement, watershed restoration, water conservation and management, edible forest gardening, native medicinal plants, natural habitat restoration, healthy buildings and human settlements, community and consensus building strategies, renewable energy systems, sustainable community development, local economics, reducing our ecological footprint, and ecological planning and design methods.

The 72 hour certificate course, presented by the Association for Regenerative Culture and the Blue Ridge Permaculture Network, is a rare opportunity to learn from the best teachers in the permaculture movement including Peter Bane, Dave Jacke, Dave O'Neill and Christine Gyovai. The course will be held over five weekends at the Rockfish Valley Community Center (RVCC), which is nestled in Nelson County at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains (March 2-4, 16-18, Mar. 30-Apr. 1, 13-15, and 27-29). For more information, see the website The cost for the course is $895, and a few work trade positions are available. Early registration is encouraged as space is limited. Lunches and snacks will be provided during the Design Course. Students will be responsible for their own overnight accommodations off-site, as well as transportation to and from the site. For a list of accommodations close to RVCC, go to the website:
Times for the course (subject to change): Friday 5:30 – 9:00 pm Saturday 8:30 am – 6:00 pm Sunday 9:00 am – 4:30 pm
Register and pay with check or Paypal

May 31- June 14, 2week Permaculture Design Course
through Indiana University (3 credit hours for IU students),
at the Lazy Black Bear, Paoli, In.
Contact: Andy Mahler, 812-723-2430 or andy[at]

Instructors, Peter Bane, Keith Johnson, Rhonda Baird, and guests. The fifth annual life-changing Pc certificate course at this lovely location. Enjoy world-class education in a unique and artful setting within the Hoosier National Forest one hour from Bloomington; draft horses, swimming pond, orgainc farm, hot solar showers, excellent music on site, and great food. Lose your ignorance: find hope. $1000 fee includes meals, camping, course materials, and dancing.

July 6-14, 2007 Permaculture Fundamentals Course
near Athens, OH
with Peter Bane, Keith Johnson, Rhonda Baird, and guests.
$475 fee includes tuition, meals, materials. Lodging optons extra.
Contact Peter Bane at pcactivist[at] or call 812-335-0383,
Appalachian Ohio is justly famous for herbal wildcrafting, pawpaw culture, organic farming, sustainable forestry, and a wealth of local economic initiatives. Join us in this trendsetting region of great natural beauty as we empower ourselves with ecological awareness and design literacy. This course, together with a Design Practicum, completes the standard 72 hour curriculum and awards students with the internationally recognized Permaculture Design certificate.
Register and pay with check or Paypal

August 24 - September 1 Permaculture Design Practicum
in Loveland, OH
with Peter Bane, Keith Johnson, Rhonda Baird, and guests.
Contact Peter Bane at pcactivist[at] or call 812-335-0383,
Second half of the certificate course taught in 8 days at Grailville. Wetland wastewater treatment, youth education, empowered women, and an emerging ecovillage distinguish this site on 300 Acres near metropolitan Cincinnati. Grailville will host the 10th Continental Bioregional Congress in 2008, and our design work will help perpare the site as well as realize the vision of Heartland Ecovillage. Gracious accomadations at the Grailville conference center make this an exceptional opportunity. Fundamental Course is a prerequisite for obtaining the Permaculture Design Certificate. $695 fee includes tuition, meals, lodging, and materials.

Register and pay with check or Paypal

Bloomington (IN) Permaculture Guild Series

Bloomington (IN) Permaculture Guild Series
Contact Rhonda at 812-320-9136 to register.

March 31, 2007 Introduction to Permaculture
with Peter Bane and Rhonda Baird, $75
Foundation Ethics and Principles.

April 14, 2007 Propagating Plants
with Keith Johnson, $75
Multiplying plants is easier than you think. Topics covered will include:
direct seeding, transplants, planting, divisions, layering, grafting, taking cuttings, and more. Students will take home new plants for their gardens.

May 19 & 20, 2007 Water Catchment:
Building Ferro-cement Tanks

with Peter Bane & Keith Johnson $150
Learn to capture this scarce and precious resource in tanks you can build yourself. This hands-on event will cover everything you need to know about constructing a 10,000 gallon rainwater tank at Keith and Peter's home in Bloomington.

August 4, 2007 Foundations for Natural Buildings
with Keith Johnson & Peter Bane $75
Hands-on class creating a new foundation for a timber frame, straw-clay infilled chicken coop / tool shed with rubble trench and urbanite. This 5,000 year old technology was used to create the Pantheon and most other ancient buildings of Europe.

August 11 & 12, 2007 Straw - Clay Walls for Natural Buildings
with Keith Johnson & Peter Bane $150
This hands-on class will install new highly insulative, fire-resistant walls for a timber frame chicken coop / tool shed.
Centuries-old strategies for today. Basic grounding in theory and technique. Slide show showing many natural building styles and practices.

September 29, 2007 Earth Plasters for Natural Buildings
with Peter Bane and Keith Johnson $75
Learn to create and apply beautiful earth plasters over straw - clay walled chicken coop / tool shed. Various recipes and finishes will be discussed.

Contact Rhonda at 812-320-9136 to register.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Declaration of Seed Sovereignty - A Model for the Rest of Us.

The bold and courageous County Commissioners of Santa Fe County NM have created a document we can use to initiate similar resolutions in our own regions.

Resolution No. 2007 - 9
A Resolution in Support of a "Declaration of Seed Sovereignty:
Living Document for New Mexico"

WHEREAS, our ability to grow food is the culmination of countless generations of sowing and harvesting seeds and those seeds are the continuation of an unbroken line from our ancestors to us and to our children and grandchildren.
WHEREAS, our ancestors developed a relationship with plants that allowed their cultivation for food and medicine and this has been a central element of our culture and our survival for millennia in regions throughout the world.
WHEREAS, the concurrent development of cultures of Eurasia, Africa, and the Americas resulted in a plethora of food and crop types including grains such as maize and wheat; legumes such as beans and lentils; fruits such as squash and chile; vegetables such as spinach and those of the cabbage family; and roots such as potatoes and turnips.
WHEREAS, these foods and crops, though developed independently of each other, came together in New Mexico with the meeting of Spanish, Mexican, and Native American cultures to create a unique and diverse indigenous agricultural system and land-based culture.
WHEREAS, just as our families are attached to our homes, our seeds learn to thrive in their place of cultivation by developing a relationship with the soil, water, agricultural practices, ceremonies, and prayers; thereby giving seeds a sacred place in our families and communities.
WHEREAS, the way in which seeds become attached to a place makes them native seeds, also known as landraces, also makes them an important element of the generational memory of our communities.
WHEREAS, the continued nurturing of native seeds or landraces has provided the basis for the community coming together for communal work such as Cleaning acequias and preparing fields as well as in ceremony, prayers, and blessings thereby binding our communities, traditions, and cultures together.
WHEREAS, the practices embodied in working the land and water and caring for seeds provides the basis for our respectful connection to the Earth and with each other.
WHEREAS, our practices in eating for native seeds (Iandraces) and growing crops provide for much of our traditional diet and results in our ability to feed ourselves with healthy food that is culturally and spiritually significant.
WHEREAS, clean air, soil, water, and landscapes have been essential elements in the development and nurturing of seeds as well as the harvesting of wild plants; and that these elements of air, land, and water have been contaminated to certain degrees.
WHEREAS, corporate seed industries have created a technology that takes the genetic material from a foreign species and inserts it into a landrace and is known as Genetically Engineered (GE) or transgenic crops.
WHEREAS, seed corporations patent the seeds, genetics, and/or the processes used in the manipulation of landraces, and have gone so far as to patent other wild plants or the properties contained in the plants.
WHEREAS, GE crops have escaped into the environment with maize in Oaxaca, Mexico and canola in Canada and crossed into native seeds and wild plants.
WHEREAS, organic farmers have been sued by seed corporations when these patented genetic strains have been identified in the farmers' crops, even though the farmers were unable to see or stop pollen from genetically engineered crops from blowing over the landscape and into their fields, thus contaminating the farmers' crops.
WHEREAS, the effect of this technology on the environment or human health when consumed is not fully understood.
WHEREAS, the seed industry refuses to label GE seeds and food products containing GE ingredients.
WHEREAS, the pervasiveness of GE crops in our area cannot then be fully known due to the lack of labeling and therefore carries the potential for genetic pollution on our landraces.
WHEREAS, countries such as Japan, England, and countries in Africa have refused genetically modified foods and prohibit the introduction of GE crops on their lands because of their unknown health effects.
WHEREAS, indigenous cultures around the world are the originators, developers, and owners of the original genetic material used in the genetic engineering of crops by corporations today.
WHEREAS, this declaration must be a living, adaptable document that can be amended as needed in response to rapidly changing GE technology that brings about other potential assaults to seeds and our culture.

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the Board of County Commissioners of Santa Fe County supports the following:
• The traditional farmers of Indo-Hispano and Native American ancestry of current day northern New Mexico collectively and intentionally seek to continue the seed-saving traditions of our ancestors and maintain the land races that are indigenous to the region of northern New Mexico;
• Seek to engage youth in the continuation of the traditions of growing traditional foods, sharing scarce water resources, sharing seeds, and celebrating our harvests.
• Reject the validity of corporations' ownership claims to crops and wild plants that belong to our cultural history and identity.
• Object to the seed industry's refusal to label seeds or products containing GE technology and ingredients and demand all genetically modified seeds and foods containing GE ingredients in the State of New Mexico to be labeled as such.
• Object to the cultivation of GE seeds in general but especially within range of our traditional agricultural systems that can lead to the contamination of our seeds, wild plants, traditional foods, and cultural property.
• We will work with each other, local, tribal, and state governments to create zones that will be free of genetically engineered and transgenic organisms.
• We will also work together to address other environmental abuses that contaminate our air, soil, and water quality that certainly affects our health, the health of our seeds and agriculture, and the health of future generations.
• We will work together with the traditional farmers representing various acequia, Pueblo, tribal, and surrounding communities to create, support, and collaborate toward projects and programs focused on revitalization of food traditions, agriculture, and seed saving and sharing.


Sunday, February 11, 2007

Peter, gifting circle

Peter Bane (publisher Permaculture Activist USA) presenting at IPC7, Motovun, Croatia. (photo by Keith Johnson)

Sepp Holzer / Krameterhof

Sepp Holzer describing his technique of prepping strawbales, by soaking, for inoculation with mushrooms. Sepp is a microclimate-managing genius with 70 ponds on a complex food forested (30,000 fruit trees)100A landscape at 4000ft in the Alps of Austria with a 1000 ft elevation change from top to bottom of his site. He manages it mostly with pigs and a few highland cattle.
Visit his site at

(photo by Keith Johnson)

Permies at Sepp Holzer's

Su Dennett, Veronika Holzer, and David Holmgren during IPC7 tour of Krameterhof (photo by Keith Johnson)

Group photo in Croatia IPC7

Permaculturists from around the planet at the 7th International Permaculture Convergence in Croatia. The next one is in Brazil, in May 2007. You can learn more about it at
(photo by Keith Johnson)

rubbertirebucket (1)

rubbertirebucket (1), originally uploaded by kdjpcapix.

Another item found at Darren's in Paoli, IN, made from old rubber tires but crafted I forget where...somewhere was used to carry water.


SolarShower-Indiana, originally uploaded by kdjpcapix.

Very efficient 3-stall solar shower in Paoli, IN, site of soon-to-be 5th Annual Permaculture Design Course at the Lazy Black Bear, kept 30 people clean with hot water to spare.


chickencoop-coonzapper, originally uploaded by kdjpcapix.

A low-strung electrified wire wraps around Darren Bender-Beauregard's chicken coop in Paoli IN, and is attached to this metal plate at the entrance. The chickens hop up and are not shocked unless they have one foot on the ground...but they always hop up....unlike the unwary raccoon, possum, skunk, snake, etc., who learn REALLY fast not to repeat the attempt. Darren found he could leave the coop open full-time and never worry about predators.

Busy, busy, busy...

Recent Permaculture Design Course graduate Josh Kearns' blog is a journal of his adventures with great natural building and appropriate tech pix from his travels and internship in Thailand.

Omnivore's Dilemma, by Michael Pollan

Michael Pollan, the author of the story in the post below this one, is the author of a new highly recommended book, The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals, a New York Times bestseller, as well as three previous books: The Botany of Desire, Second Nature, and A Place of My Own, pictured here. Pollan is a contributing writer to the New York Times Magazine and the Knight Professor of Journalism at UC Berkeley.

Christian-libertarian-environmentalist-lunatic- Pc- farmer

News: An evangelical Virginia farmer says a revolution against industrial agriculture is just down the road.
By Michael Pollan

Photos: Jim Franco

Joel Salatin, who describes himself as a “Christian-libertarian-environmentalist-lunatic farmer,” speaks of his farming as his “ministry,” and certainly his 1,000 or so regular customers hear plenty of preaching. Each spring he sends out a long, feisty, single-spaced letter that could convince even a fast-food junkie that buying a pastured broiler from Polyface Farm qualifies as an act of social, environmental, nutritional, and political redemption.

“Greetings from the non-bar code people,” began one recent missive, before launching into a high-flying jeremiad against our disconnected “multi-national global corporate techno-glitzy food system” with its “industrial fecal factory concentration camp farms.” (The dangerous pileup of modifiers is a hallmark of Joel’s rhetorical style.) Like any good jeremiad, this one eventually transits from despair to hope, noting that the “yearning in the human soul to smell a flower, pet a pig and enjoy food with a face is stronger now than anytime in history,” before moving into a matter-of-fact discussion of this year’s prices and the paramount importance of sending in your order blanks and showing up to collect your chickens on time.

Read the rest of the story.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Post-Petroleum Permaculture in Vietnam

VAC And Permaculture In Viet Nam
Nguyen Van Man (Viet Nam)

The Traditional Agriculture Of Viet Nam And The 'VAC' System
(VAC is an acronym of three Vietnamese words: VUON meaning garden or orchard, AO meaning fish pond, CHUONG meaning animal sheds.)
For millennia the Vietnamese people, in the process of building their agriculture have made efforts to learn from nature in the establishment of their sustainable agriculture system. This is both productive to man and suitable for the prevailing environmental conditions. The wisdom of the farmers is manifested with their saying, "watch the sky, the clouds, the wind, the rain and the soils" and to "grow the right plant on the right site"

Another saying is, "A piece of land is a piece of gold."

The most famous among these sustainable land farming systems is traditional rice field farming and the VAC system of agriculture.

The Vietnamese ricefield system has been developed with a wide range of technologies which include relay planting, mixed cropping, intercropping, cultivation of drought resistant and water-logging tolerant rice varieties, building terraces in the mountainous areas, building irrigation systems for supplying water and improving soil quality, using mulch and green manure
(such as azolla and sesbania), combination rice growing and fish and duck raising.

The VAC system is established around the dwelling house. This is an ecosystem where gardening, fish rearing and animal husbandry are closely integrated.

In the home garden, various species of crops are grown under different farming technologies which include inter-cropping, mixed cropping, overlapping and multi-cultivation to make full use of the available resources. In the corner of the garden are grown some medicinal and spice plants. Around the garden are timber trees and rattans and even some tuber crops such as Convolvulaceae, Dioscorea.

Various kinds of fish are reared in the pond so that feed resources at all levels are used so there are tench at the top, roach at the intermediate level and tilapia at the bottom of the pond. Taros are planted around the fishpond and marsh lentils are grown over part of the water surface as pig feed. Dome gourd or loofah pergolas are constructed above the water. Near the fishpond there are pigsties and poultry coops.

There is an interaction in VAC. Some of the products from the garden and their residues are used for animal and fish feeding while the fishpond provides water and the litter/sewage from the animal pens is used for feeding the fish.

In the traditional agriculture of Viet Nam, the rice field provides rice and grain to the family while a
wider range of food and foodstuffs; eg. vegetables, fruits, meat, fishes and eggs come from VAC. Some vegetables, fruits and tuber crops from VAC can be stored and serve as reserved supplies for the farmer.

The VAC products which are not used can be sold at the local market for cash. The income from VAC is generally 50 to 70% of the total income of the farmers' family.

The traditional Vietnamese village as is commonly seen in the deltas were always eco-based units. Around the village there is a belt of bamboo for both protection from wind and as a shelter belt. It also provides the village with construction materials for housing, furniture, baskets and many handcrafts.

Inside the village, all the households have individual VAC systems which create a sound environment and a peaceful atmosphere.

With their ricefield farming system and their VAC ecosystem, a sustainable, self-sufficiency in food and a moderate cash flow into and out of the household has been provided. Local communities in their village have had their own regulations for the protection of their production, eg. the careless herdsmen have to pay fines for damage caused to the rice paddies, fruit trees and the natural resource such as the local forests and water sources.

There are also regulations concerning festivities such as wedding and burial ceremonies. For instance, the newly-weds have to contribute building materials, mainly bricks, for the construction of roads or wells at the village. At the birth of a child, the parents have to plant trees; cash cropping varieties such as cinnamon, anise and canarium to create assets for their descendants.

There are long standing customs and regulations in the village which are more operational than state legislation because "King's laws do not overrule village laws" as a popular saying goes.

It can be said that the package of agricultural land farming technologies of Viet Nam was inspired and developed through the wisdom of the farmers who, by their nature, laid emphasis on land use
sustainability. Local knowledge and the correct management of communes and villages has continued the blossoming of the VAC system.

VAC Recent History And Its Linkage With Permaculture

With the modern development of the agricultural co-operative, the traditional family economy had
become neglected. With the advent of collectivisation private gardens became unproductive. Many specially selected and protected fruit trees disappeared and many of the time-honoured techniques of the farmers were also forgotten.

In the last few years, a new policy for the Vietnamese Government has again seen the full promotion of the family-based economy. In 1986 the National Association of Vietnamese Gardeners (VACVINA) was established.

The main objectives of VACVINA are:

1. To promote a large VAC movement all over the country.
2. To introduce appropriate technologies to increase farmers' income, eradicate famine and
alleviate poverty. Priority has been given to children and women and ethnic minorities.
3. To protect the environment and set up a sustainable agriculture system.

The Association is a NGO and its members are working as volunteer activists, many of whom are retired civil servants. VACVINA began its activities with only 100 household members and some dozens of activists. By 1996 the association was working with its network spread to 250,000 members in all 53 provinces of the country.

When VACVINA was established, there was in Viet Nam almost no research in horticulture, in VAC or in fruit production. We had to collaborate with scientists, horticulturalists to investigate, evaluate collect and analyse the experiences and knowledge of the traditional farmers of different areas. It was only then that we could design and propagate the new VAC models and advance appropriate technologies for different regions. Today the VAC system is in use from the deltas to the mountains and along the coastline of Viet Nam. Cities and towns have not been excluded.

As early as 1988, UNICEF began to grant its assistance for the implementation of a nutritional VAC program to help poor families improve their diet. This was particularly aimed at pregnant women, and children under five years of age.

1989 marked a new step in the development of the VAC movement and VACVINA activities. With the assistance of QSA, a VAC project was implemented in Bavi, Son Tay Province, to help the Dao ethnic minority and the project was further assisted with the arrival of permaculturist Rosemary Morrow from Australia.

That year many permaculture training courses were held for VACVINA staff and members. It was found that VAC and permaculture are closely related and the dissemination of PC knowledge to VACVINA members did not meet with any difficulty. The PC concept, ethics and principles have enlarged the view and knowledge of VACVINA members, making them more confident in their
struggle for better habitat, for a better and more peaceful livelihood, for the protection of our planet
and for a sustainable future.

VACVINA has three centres for research and teaching in which the main subjects are VAC and PC. With further assistance from QSA, VACVINA has been involved in a number of field projects in which PC and VAC principles have worked hand in hand for the benefit of the recipients.

One of these projects has been implemented at the coastal area of Quang Binh Province in the central part of Viet Nam where violent typhoons and strong, dry winds destroy villages and crops with blinding sand storms which sweep inland from the coast.

About 80% of the residents were considered poor and malnutrition prevailed in 60 to 70% of children. The project was implemented at two communes where over 28,000 ha of land had been destroyed by the sand which had been destabilised with the destruction of vegetation by continuous bombing raids during the war. Some 156 families were selected as 'pilot families' to
start the project.

After local discussion meetings and training workshops for problem solving and the dissemination of VAC technologies, farmers were helped to establish windbreaks for the protection of their villages and ricefields using tough, drought-tolerant Australian casuarinas as well as indigenous trees species such as Excoecaria spp., wild agaves and local dune grasses. All can grow on virtually sterile soil.

The land was allocated to households which had the labour force and the willingness to work under the guidance of a team selected by the local VACVINA for future incomes from the trees and crops to be established. Along village roads, plantations of timber trees and fruit crops such as coconut, custard apple, jujube trees were established.

Members were encouraged to produce appropriate seedlings and planting material for the establishment of home gardens and for the replacement of missing trees in windbreaks and along commune roads. Most households, when starting VAC gardening, began their work with pig and chicken raising as well as digging farm ponds for fish rearing then later turning to
fruit and tree crop cultivation.

VACVINA created interest groups and teams for the exchange of labour. Poor farmer households were assisted with "revolving loans" for the establishment of their VAC system. They were also trained on how to make farm manure compost, the use of green manure and carrying out "organic farming" with success.

Beside specific VAC systems in each household, there were two other demonstration centres, one in each commune for the dissemination of VAC technologies at the project area and for the production of seedlings and planting materials. Local VACVINA members were also trained as teachers and the pupils in two communal primary schools and one kindergarten also
received training within school gardens.

The kindergarten has particularly benefited from their gardens with improved nutrition with more eggs, fruits, vegetables, fish and meat in their daily diet.

After more than three years of project implementation, the results obtained are encouraging. First there have been changes in the landscape and the environment for the better with the formerly sterile, shifting sands re-covered with greenery. With the community now creating a cash income from produce, the percentage of poor households has been reduced to 10 to 15% of the local population. Most of these are found to be households of old people who have a limited labour
force. The perceptions and knowledge of local farmers has also improved.

Of greater relevance is the fact that the beneficial effects of the project were not confined to within the boundaries of the two communes. They have become centres for the further expansion of knowledge. Other communities come to be trained. Bill Mollison, the man considered to be the world leader in the dispersal of PC concepts, was very satisfied with the results when he visited

Another project was implemented on two other communes in the mountains in North Viet Nam. These communes are mainly populated by ethnic minorities and it is noteworthy that two thirds of Viet Nam is hilly and it is here that around 60 ethnic minorities reside.

Due to deforestation and the prolonged effects of war, barren hills and valleys take up around 10 million hectares. The degradation is still continuing and water resources are also constantly being polluted or are drying up. The Hmong people still practice the primitive slash and burn method of agriculture to grow rice and now opium.

A pilot project to improve the living conditions of the Hmong was implemented in communes far away from any towns or services. The living conditions were of a very low standard with many people affected by chronic malaria and basic food production techniques were underdeveloped.

When the growing season arrived, most of the labourers in the families would leave to find land to grow their rice and opium. They would live in the fields until after the harvest was brought in six months later.

Only old people and children would remain in the villages so there were no home gardens and only a few pigs and chickens were kept to roam around the houses. Without care, they succumbed to diseases or were taken by wild animals.

Beside introducing VAC technologies to the villages, there has been an attempt to replace the cultivation of opium poppies with other cash crops.

The project was established in a number of steps. The first step was to help the households to improve their animal rearing, to construct sheds for the pigs and chickens. Later they began growing vegetable, tuber crops, maize, pulse and fruit trees around their homesteads and even on nearby hillsides.

In collaboration with the local authorities such as the chairman of the communal peoples committee and the heads of the villages, the elders of the villages comprising some 60 families, some were selected as pilot families.

Soon other developments followed such as the creation of village food security funds (a kind of rice bank) to provide loans in kind to needy households. The water supply was improved with the installation of piping and water tanks, the provision of health care facilities, the provision of teaching materials to two primary schools in the communes, the establishment of two cultural centres equipped with TV and video. The project also included the building of check dams and a
small hydroelectric power station for both water and electricity supply.

The project also contributed to the upgrading and expansion of the local road network. Nearly four years after it started, big changes have taken place in the communes. Most of the 314 households in the project area now grow home gardens and there is a small surplus which is sold on for cash.

The animals are now protected from harm in pens. Fish farming, new to these people, has also been introduced. The area for fruit tree growing has increased. By 1995 21,500 fruit trees
including longan, plum, persimmon, grape and orange have been planted. 20,000 Shan tea seedlings, a precious tea species for mountainous areas, have also been established on the formerly denuded hillsides. The areas under opium cultivation have nearly disappeared.

Social activities have been organised at the two cultural centres and a better understanding of
national problems has been promoted and this has helped them participate effectively in the mainstream development of all aspects of the VACVINA system.

Health problems such as childhood malnutrition, opium smoking and especially malaria are gradually declining. A number of authorities and organisations have collaborated with the communes to create this "Participatory rural development model."

The success of these communes has attracted the interest of many other communities who are
experiencing similar problems. Slowly, the message is going around that forests need protection and restoration and that sustainable development is the only sensible long term alternative. In a neighbouring province, over 10,000 hectares of barren hillsides and after three years, produces thousands of tons of vegetable and fruit products.

VAC development in the 1980's began its popularity in the deltas but soon spread through all of Viet Nam with a million households establishing home gardens and tens of thousands of hectares of formerly unproductive lands being restored.

Since 1990 the VAC extension work has been closely linked to permaculture concepts, ethics and
principles. Planners and policy makers in many provinces and central agencies have paid due attention to the development and application of VAC technologies for sustainable land use. In particular the Department of Education and Training has issued its decision to promote VAC and permaculture in all schools.

VACVINA, with the assistance of Rosemary Morrow has held many training courses and in 1995, a large program was initiated to train VAC and permaculture teachers for all provinces.

On the occasion of its tenth anniversary, VACVINA received a letter of congratulations from the General Secretary of the Vietnamese Communist Party. In its 8th Congress, the Communist Party has laid strong emphasis on the development of a sustainable agriculture system in the country.
Perspectives And Challenges

With the recent formal backing of the Party and the Government, the further progress and success of VACVINA and permaculture projects in Viet Nam is assured and it is expected that there will be a slow turning away from monoculture to a much more diverse land use and sustainability.

However, some leaders are not yet convinced that it is necessary to have sustainable development and a number of them are not aware of the negative effects of the development of a conventional energy-based monoculture.

Legislation has been enacted in regards to land conservation but its enforcement is no easy task.
Natural resources in particular, natural forests, mangroves in the deltas, are all still being
destroyed. Forrest products and biodiversity in such areas is still open to destruction and abuse.

Sound economic and social development in harmony with natural resources conservation often requires a traditional wisdom to look not only at the present needs and short-sighted demands of greed but also at the long-term future and the living conditions of the generations still to come.

Naturally there are big challenges that we have to cope with while struggling for industrialisation and modernisation.

The struggle for a sustainable development is continuing and VACVINA, with the support of the
people, will work at the front line together with many other active and progressive institutions to achieve its goals and visions.

Friday, February 9, 2007

Robert Newman's History of Oil

If you've got the bandwidth take a look at Robert Newman's History of oil 46 min, in which the "causes" of the great world wars, and most subsequent wars is tied, humorously and dramatically, (with bicyclists pedaling furiously to provide the lighting and power in a tiny theater in London), to the quest for.....drum roll.......OIL. TaDaaaa.

Bottled Insanity - (Toxic Nightmares)

This article speaks for itself. Commentary from me is superfluous.

Bottled Insanity

by Michael I. Niman

It’s got to be one of life’s cheapest escapes: a mini
buck fifty sojourn to the rainforests of Fiji, all
from the convenience of your own cubicle. America is
mad for Fiji water—an emerging victor in the designer
water wars.

According to the Los Angeles-based Fiji Water Company,
their bottled-in-Fiji artesian water is “untouched by
man” (which I would hope is pretty standard for
drinking water) and, due to a high-tech bottling
plant, has never come in contact with 21st-century
air. The hype positions it as the fossil fuel of
waters—one more heirloom fluid to be ravenously

On one level it’s refreshing to see people excited
about water. For the most part, each bottle of water
Americans drink represents one less sugar-and
chemical-laden bottle of soda pop consumed. With
sugary soft drinks (liquid candy averaging 11
teaspoons of sugar per 12-ounce bottle) emerging as a
major culprit in our obesity epidemic, our newfound
taste for water is certainly good news.

But there’s a dark side to our new water craze. And in
many ways, Fiji Water optimizes the self-destructive
insanity of consumer culture. The problem is not Fiji
Water per se. The company has built hospitals and
water systems in Fiji, and I’m sure their water is
great. The problem is bottled water in general, and
Fiji Water makes a great case study.

I’m in Western New York State watching people drink
Fiji Water out of little, indestructible plastic tanks
adorned with colorful images of tropical flowers and
waterfalls. But there’s something very wrong here.
Something very unnatural about this natural treat.
Something that threatens the very existence of the
tropical paradise depicted on the bottle. Something
that lays bare the insanity of consumerism.

Here we are sitting on the edge of the Great
Lakes—home to one fifth of the fresh water on the
planet. We’re hours away from pristine Adirondack
mountain aquifers. Yet we buy water that is
transported to northeastern North America from a small
South Pacific atoll whose population suffers from
chronic water shortages. This water is packaged in
plastic bottles made from dwindling oil reserves.
Currently it takes about 63 million gallons of oil per
year to manufacture disposable water bottles for US

Fiji Water bottles are made on-site in Fiji from
polyethylene terephthalate (PET). The manufacturing
process is energy-intensive and produces toxic
byproducts. The plant that makes the bottles is one
part of Fiji you’ll never see pictured on a Fiji Water
bottle. When we’re done drinking our water, over 85
percent of these bottles wind up in landfills (where
they take up to 1,000 years to degrade) and
incinerators—the latter of which can release a
potpourri of deadly toxics into the environment.
Recycling plastic bottles is still often

Bringing these bottles of water here from the other
side of the earth involves packing them into cardboard
boxes. In the South Pacific this often means
rainforest cardboard. The boxes of bottles are then
trucked from the bottling plant to a sea cargo
terminal in Fiji, then shipped across the ocean on
fossil-fuel-powered freighters to the US Pacific
coast. There they’re loaded onto trains and trucks,
all powered by fossil fuels, and eventually
warehoused, prodded with forklifts, loaded onto other
trucks, shipped to other warehouses and eventually
delivered to your local convenience store or drink
machine. Environmental impact-wise, you might as well
be swigging down a pint of oil.

We’re being sold a fantasy. A moment in Fiji. A taste
of Fiji. And I’m sure someone out there will tell me
there’s no other water like it, or Perrier, or Poland
Springs, on the planet. But the insane reality is
we’re shipping water across an ocean and continent, to
a region that already has the world’s most abundant
reserves of some of the best water on the planet—water
that is also shipped around the world to other water
snobs who will argue it’s all worthwhile since there’s
no other water quite like New York’s Adirondack spring
water. This behavior is killing the planet. And the
places our designer water comes from, such as Fiji and
the mountains of New York and Maine, are among the
most vulnerable environments susceptible to the
ravages of global warming.

Years ago I clipped a small newspaper story and stuck
it to the wall of my office. It was a
three-column-inch report of a northbound train hauling
municipal waste crashing into a southbound train
hauling, yes, municipal waste. The story was just a
simple narrative. One train was on the wrong tack. A
mistake was made. Never addressed was the obvious
question: Why are we moving identical trains of
garbage in opposite directions for a zero sum gain?

I guess this is the magic of the free market. Trains
full of garbage or water passing in the night. The
problem is that this madness is no longer sustainable.
It never was. The Fiji Water Company suggests that we
drink 16 glasses a day of water—all from Fiji. That’s
three to 11 bottles depending on size. From a
planetary perspective, this is suicidal.

If you like water, and you don’t like tap water, then
buy a water filter and refill your colorful Fiji
bottles over and over. You can still imagine you’re in
Fiji. They’re your daydreams to do with as you wish.
Perhaps you can even dream of a healthy world.

Michael I. Niman’s previous columns are archived at and available at

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Home-grown fungal inocculant

If you plant trees you should learn how to grow your own fungal inocculants to maximize your trees' health and growth. We published a story about it in The Permaculture Activist, issue # 61 (order a copy here).

The folks at the Rodale Institute also wrote about it and have posted the story online:
New Farm Research
: Cultivating beneficial soil fungi to increase yields
Low-cost, on-farm system for producing mycorrhizal fungi inoculant takes another step forward.

Cascadia Revegation - New Blog

Follow Paul Cereghino as he journals about the land he lives in and the challage of integrating agriculture, horticulture and vegetation ecology into this thing called permaculture. He includes images of his sites as he is working to evolve it into a system that meets his basic needs.

Monday, February 5, 2007

25% of Electricity from Renewable Sources Coming to a State Near You

Clean energy bill takes first step
25% of electricity would come from renewable sources
Source: Pioneer Press February 2, 2007

Minnesota's electric utilities would take a potentially historic step toward providing clean energy under a bill that cleared its first major legislative hurdle Thursday. The compromise, reached after lengthy behind-the-scenes negotiations involving utilities, environmentalists and some state senators, would require utilities to generate a quarter of their electricity from such renewable-energy sources as wind within two decades.

It passed the Energy, Utilities, Technology and Communications Committee on a 15-0 vote and was sent to the Senate floor, where a vote is expected next week. The House just began hearings on a similar bill. If the Legislature ultimately passes the measure, utilities would be required to invest much more heavily in new energy sources that don't pollute or spew heat-trapping gases such as carbon dioxide.

The state's largest utility, Xcel Energy, would have to generate 30 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020 and other, smaller utilities would have to reach 25 percent by 2025. That would roughly equal the 25 percent goal by 2020 sought by state Sen. Ellen Anderson, DFL-St. Paul, and would exceed a pace recommended by Gov. Tim Pawlenty, whose representatives agreed to the deal.

"I'm rather in shock,'' said Anderson, who has led the push for renewable energy standards in the Senate. "This is a very, very strong bill that will lead the nation in new, renewable energy. I think we
have just witnessed a revolution in Minnesota.''

Michael Noble, executive director of St. Paul-based Fresh Energy, praised Xcel Energy, which had just announced a large wind-farm project on Wednesday. "Xcel stepped up to do more than its share,'' Noble said.

Xcel Energy CEO Dick Kelly told the Pioneer Press on Wednesday that Xcel is committed to doing what the Legislature decides, but favors certain regulatory accommodations.

Mike Franklin, director of energy policy for the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, called the deal the most aggressive renewable-energy bill in the nation. "We're glad senators Anderson and (Yvonne Prettner) Solon recognized the need to do this in a way that recognizes the competitive
nature of the Minnesota economy,'' Franklin said.

Solon is the committee chairwoman and led the behind-the-scenes talks.

Missouri River Energy Services, based in Sioux Falls, S.D., objected to the bill, saying the new standards would be difficult to meet without transmission reforms.

The bill defines eligible renewable energy technology as wind, solar, smaller hydropower, hydrogen and biomass, which can include landfill gas and anaerobic digesters. Most of the new electricity, however, is expected to come from wind, an increasingly popular energy source in states such as Minnesota.

Instead of simply meeting the long-range goals, utilities would have to make steady progress along the way.
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