Monday, December 1, 2014

Becoming a part of the Earth

When the average Joe first becomes aware of permaculture, he or she usually decides that it's a good idea. I mean, gardens, healthy food, natural medicine, as long as you don't go and join a cult and live in a yurt it should be fun right?
Not everyone goes all the way. For me, permaculture has been a lifelong journey and it didn't stop in the garden. Permaculture became a part of my life, and then I realised that I had an obligation to become a part of permaculture's life. In other words, you haven't really started living if you have not yet started giving back to the system thatyou were born a part of.

Lately this idea has been carrying reaaly far, making inroads into how I live my life and what investments I choose to make. My house now has at least one geo thermally regulated area, using the soil around the walls to insulate the rooms. We have sluiced the run off in the street directly into a system of swales and channels that feeds the deep soil in our garden. We did this in an effort to be rid of the massive water bills an urban farm can run up.

Every aspect of my life is becoming integrated with the planet I live on and that just feels so good. It's difficult to know what will happen to me next, as my realisation of the life I feel is right continues. A constantly expanding positive cycle of my influence on the world around me. Everything is only part of everything else, it all fits together.

I love Permaculture.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Pretty Mayise and the Urban farming or food gardening project.

Grow one farmer at a time project

Tinasonke, where we have been involved for quite some time now is one of those projects where the peope are so up beat and excited at the learning opportunities as well as the business potential that you just can't help but get excited about it right along with them.
Pretty is a good example. The gardening she has done over the years has gradually taken on a larger and larger role in her community as a source of food, and also as a source of the knowledge of how to produce food. Food gardening in Johannesburg is about more than just keeping up with your next door neighbour. These urban micro farms are becoming more responsible every day for producing high value meals for children.

Economically, many people are struggling with a little less than was available to them only a few years ago. Funding that was available for Pretty to farm more economically is not as easy to find as it once was. Pretty needs to start farming, on a larger scale, and we have seen how ready she and the other farmers on the land at Hluboku are. We are looking for donations to help her, if you follow the link through to her page, there you will see an itemised list of things the farms need, who has already contributed what equipment and how you can get involved. Just a few moments of your time, and a little money, could make a large difference to several families' incomes as well as making fresh produce available to YOURSELF TOO! If you live in the greater Johannesburg area you could take advantage of the opportunity to invest in Pretty, who will send you a portion of her harvest at reduced prices.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Pest Control with Bats

Some bats need to consume more than their own bodyweight in insects during a night of hunting. For example, the Little Brown Bat (M. Lucifugus) weighs on average 7,4 grams and during a night of hunting biologists calculate it eats around 9.4 grams of insects. That's a hang of a lot of insects and it begins to become clear that bats are a massively important aspect of nature's.
The average mosquito weighs around 2.5 micro grams. So that's thousands of mosquitoes that could be eaten by a bat in a single night.
Interesting...ever counted the number of bugs killed by those awful 'bug zapper' electronic devices? You know the ones, they make a big bang every time a hapless little insect flies into the wires...

Well bats do about a hundred times better, each bat, than a bugzapper. So if you are still using crazy outdated technology to control insects think about those numbers.

I love it when nature is so clearly the winner. I mean, those numbers of mosquitoes potentially killed by bats mean that all of those crazy insect killing ideas on sale since the fifties like coils and sprays pale into insignificance next to the raw mosquitoe killing power of bats.
So what do we do? Well, we stop destroying viable habitat and we avoid poisons that might harm the bats AND (if we are smart) we release new populations of bats, even accommodating them in bat boxes ( special houses you can buy for bats to live in)
We're not bats... we just know what we are doing when it comes to pest control.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Intelligent eco friendly landscaping here in Johannesburg.

Thermodynamics and landscaping 

Designing buildings for improved thermodynamics, like the wofati building design (click on the link for an explanation) which does not require heating or cooling is an important part of greening your way of living. My dream home and garden consists of many inter-related systems feeding into each other with no waste of water, heat, nutrients or organic material.
The old way of building and of land contouring for agricultural and other purposes has to go, and it has to go soon. We just can't afford to waste like this. Johannesburg can be a much better place, but first we have to rethink the urban landscape.

A Dream Garden

My dream garden consists of intelligent eco-friendly building design in conjunction with storm water contouring to provide the best possible environment for plant and food growth. Permaculture permeates everything in the end, which is why we even end up talking about the design of your house and what happens to the water that flows out of it. Shaping the earth, for drainage, irrigation and temperature control is wise, Wallipini greenhouses, energy efficient dwellings in the earth and drainage contouring can make your lifestyle totally sustainable while reducing your need for money. I hope the tips and links I can offer are helpful and please do remember to visit if you have not already done so.

Practical tips on building a Wallipini Greenhouse.

  • Faces to the north in the Southern Hemisphere.

  • Space between a double layer of plastic, above and below the roof structure allows the sun’s rays to penetrate while providing thermal insulation. Creating a warm, stable environment for plant growth.


  • PVC pipe can even be fashioned into a structure if the greenhouse is not too large.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Saving Seeds in Autumn in Gauteng as an urban organic gardener

Here are some general pointers to help you on your way to successfully saving seeds this Autumn. There are several basic types of seeds, those found in fleshy fruits, and those found in dry husks on grass stems, held up into the wind for dispersal are two examples. Origanum does this.

Pictured above are the seeds of origanum vulgare.

These types of seeds are ready to be harvested when they easily shake loose from the stalk.
It's a fairly simple matter to go into the field collecting wind blown seeds with a brown paper packet held over the seed stalks to collect the seeds loosened by just a little shake of the stalk.
Just remember to label what you collect.

Fruits are a little different, generally requiring that you wait until the fruits are properly 'seed ripe' before you harvest them. That means more ripe than when you would ordinarily be comfortable picking and eating a fruit.

Some fruits can be tricky. Very hot peppers for instance, they can require careful handling. Anyone who has ever rubbed their eyes (or picked their nose ahem) can tell you this.

So we put the fruits into some water and let them soak until it becomes easier to separate the seeds from the fruit.

Saving seeds is of particular benefit to the urban organic gardener if attention is paid to selecting the best plants to harvests from, plants that did particularly well in the local environment. In this way, by a process of selection, the seeds you save from your garden will begin to produce plants most especially suited to your own particular local environment.

Snazzy huh?

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Gardens and water wisdom:Hydro ecologically sound gardens in Gauteng.

The idea of sustainability is sometimes obscured by all of the rhetoric one encounters on a journey to stop hurting the earth and start helping it. That's what we all want to do after all right? We want to learn how to not do any harm and start fixing what we messed up. Well charity begins at home as the saying goes.
If you grew up in the city, your water has been arriving in a pipe, and leaving in a pipe after you have used it. One pipe for 'grey' water and one for 'black' water. Grey water refers to the water a household produces that has been mixed with soap and soiled by dishes, clothing and human washing. Black water refers to the water used in the toilet to carry away effluent. Both types account for a massive water wastage. That water does not need to be transported away, and if it isn't, it can be used to water food gardens. Obviously this is more than simply a matter of unplugging the drains and letting them start flowing into the soil around your home. That will make a mess to say the least. Doing the necessary preparation of the soil and the shape and lay of the land as well as the life present, both microbial and macro biological life like plants is essential. If you do your homework, it quickly becomes clear that cleaning water with natural systems is not only desirable, but perfectly possible as well.

There is an excellent illustration of the principles involved in cleaning water with biological resources in use at the Johannesburg Zoo, where soiled water from the streets of Johannesburg enters the system on one side of the zoo, is run through a system of natural filtration including but not limited to the reed beds which add oxygen and start cleaning the water at the cellular level.Our own effort is pictured below.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Cube Tasting Kitchen, Parktown Girls and a really great little food production system.

Parktown Girls is a really great school. This is a well known fact if you are an old Johanessburger (to be held distinct from old Johannians, who of course are keener on St Johns, another fine old Johannesburg school.
And Because they are one of Johannesburgs finest old educational institutions they are of course right on top of the task of keeping up to date with modern environmental concerns.

They're keen on showing the girls attending their school just what is involved in growing food the healthy way. The project goes further than that though, since this particular school veggie garden has some swanky connections. They're going to be supplying their produce to the Cube Tasting Kitchen in Parktown North. So a lesson in microeconomics then too. Actually I mustn't sound patronising, these days microeconomic enterprises of this nature are turning into what an old school entrepreneur might have called 'a regular little cash cow'.

Fact is, people pay high prices for quality organic produce and anyone prepared to do the research, learnhow and then plan and execute a food growing project can actually become self sustaining at least, if not really very profitable, quite rapidly. It is all about having just the right know how at your fingertips and that last sentence is what Positive Cycle is all about. In a nutshell: Positive Cycle strives to ensure access to quality bio dynamic know how. In a world full of GMO, unlikely corporate promises and growing global food insecurity, knowing how to get the earth to produce a varied and healthy crop is becoming more valuable each and every day.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Hotels and Restaurants and their food waste in Johannesburg

In other areas of this blog we have looked at food waste, without addressing the tremendous volumes of wet waste produced in commercial kitchens, like those in guest houses, restaurants and hotels. Although Johannesburg restaurant kitchens may set out to waste as little as possible, in order to maximise profit by minimising wastage, there is nonetheless always a large amount of waste, and historically that waste has been among the worst managed.

We are collecting bins of anaerobicallyfermenting wet waste from businesses, hotels and restaurants. We've had to price our offering low enough to make the whole exercise make sense to a profit driven business owner but we are able to say that this is one little biodynamic training company that is putting a hang of a lot of food waste back into the soil, and in some of the areas that need it the most too, like Hammanskraal and Soweto. Bare soil and sandy roadways can easily be replaced with paradise, if more and more people learn to build the soil back up out of all the organic material we ordinarily waste and allow to be processed in ways that are not really acceptable from an environmental point of view.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

The Quest for Unscarred Organic Produce.

How many times have we heard it repeated that producing perfect looking and tasting vegetables and fruits with organic or biodynamic methods is impossible and that we have to accept a certain amount of damage if we want to avoid using chemical or poisonous interventions? It has been repeated so often that we now all tend to accept this information as a confirmed fact.

Positive Cycle, ever keen to push the limits of our methods, would like to prove otherwise. We know that with the right investment in time and energy spent creating optimal soil health it is not only possible, but also cost effective, to produce perfect produce in an organic garden or farm setting. In the early years of Positive Cycle we all tended to assume that absolute perfection was not really natural. We no longer believe that, having seen such amazing results in gardens older than three years, where organic, bio diverse practises have produced a perfect environment. It's been quite an eye opener not just for our clients, sponsored beneficiaries and learners, but for us too. To be quite frank, you haven't lived until you have eaten perfect organic produce, grown in 100% optimal conditions. It gives you a new definition of just what food is.

Feeling doubtful? If you haven't seen it for yourself, you will, but it can be done. We are not saying that it is easy, just that it can be done. We feel it is important to make people aware that unscarred organic produce can be grown by farmenrs and home gardeners alike. Many people shy away from the idea of organic agriculture because they are accustomed to looking at unblemished harvests from industrialised chemically orientated farms. Proving that perfect fruit and veg is possible without chemical intervention could change the game. Changing perceptions that are currently limiting the growth of biodynamic gardening and agriculture is our goal and perfect fruit and vegetables will go a long way to achieving that.
Like to find out how? Come and learn with us, follow the link to see our workshop schedule.