Saturday, 11 April 2015

Dustin Bajer: Permaculture Connections

As Dustin Bajer addressed the group gathered at Bellevue Hall Wednesday, it was obvious he loved to teach and he was teaching something he loved.  The audience was engaged with his enthusiasm and energy, and it became very apparent his "rock bed" childhood in Barrhead was a very fitting beginning for a permaculture designer (and teacher, and beekeeping hobbyist...), for a rock is not "just a rock"

"What is permaculture? A hundred permaculturists in a room will have a hundred definitions -- and none of them would be wrong..." 
He addressed the fact that permaculture is more widely heard of now, but most people do not know what it means.  He spoke of his definition, (which included mimicking patterns of nature in design, looking at relationships and connections), and related principles (including caring for the land and returning things back to the system).  

Pictures of complex systems filled the screen, and he spoke of their web-like nature (Muir's Web) and how interconnected an organism (or element) can be.  Ultimately illustrating an organism is "better off together in a community than on its own" because even if one connection is broken, there are others supporting it.

The hour quickly ended and bled into the next.  Dustin shared photos of transforming his yard into a sustainable and highly productive garden (along with putting the image of him as a "lettuce fairy" into our minds), while also answering a great number of questions ranging from bee keeping to the garden he's worked on with Jasper High School students in their courtyard.

It was certainly a fun and educational night.

For those who missed out on the talk, below are some notes I made of the night.  For those who attended, what did I miss?  What was your greatest take away?

Thank you again Dustin for coming to speak with us -- we look forward to seeing you again soon!

Dustin Bajer with Highlands Garden Club members.
Resources mentioned and recommendations made:
- for Fungi for Healthy Gardens - Used to treat roots of plants or growth medium (straw / compost)
- Mushrooms of Western Canada - Lone Pine Publishing - Mushroom identification
Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond by Brad Lancaster - Create water cycle, use water more effectively
- Sustainable Food Edmonton - many resources (previously Community Garden Network)

Permaculture boils down to connections and relationships: 
- Care for the land and return to the system
- Meaningful connections - symbiotic relationships:
   - e.g. "Red Cap" mushrooms and popular tree - mushroom is more efficient at gathering water and helps the popular tree, which in turn feeds the mushroom by providing leaves and sugar sap
   - The link between bees and mushrooms (Paul Stamets)

* Better off together in a community than on its own

1. Connections make things more stable
2. More diversity is more manageable
3. More connections, the more sustainable.

"Great leaders align strengths so their weakness don't matter." ~ Peter Drucker (management guru)
- Ecological systems do the same 
- Muir web: A rock does "nothing" - but actually: provides a place to live on, live under, is a thermal mass that absorbs heat during the day and releases it in the night, buffers temperatures creating a micro-climate around it, will eventually erode and breakdown into the soil --> A side walk, a house is like a giant rock

Cycles are created in these systems 
- A forest during a drought looks better than a regular urban garden because of the cycles that are contained in the system (e.g. water remains in the system)
- If everything is cycled (more reused) we have multiple times more resources
- Parallel in economics: Cities are places that maximize connections

- Vegetables from garden 
- Aquaponics to raise fish - which water is then used as garden fertilizer 
- Fish and vegetables used in culinary / home ec. courses

What about weeds?
- "You get the weeds your soil needs"
- Dandelions - if you wait long ehntough they'll actually imporve the sol so other things can grow there (tap roots goes through compacted soil, leaves organic matter)
Loose soil: chickweed

- Graph: Energy x Time
- Stored energy is high in a forest and low in a typical urban garden
- Energy to maintain is high in a typical urban garden and low in forest

Implementing a garden with permaculture principles in mind - (move closer to forest):
- Plant your water, before planting your garden
- Weeds are basically fast growing annuals - combat them by planting the same thing (e.g. lettuce) everywhere
- Weeping tile (with a stocking) to bring water directly from roofs into the garden
- No till gardening: a layer of leaves or straw, a layer of compost, then plant directly into compost
- Rhubarb under fruit trees - leaves and stems funnel water to the base of the tree

"City honey is the best honey...."
- Layers are a cross-section of the seasons (Mayday , lilacs, dandelion, apples...)

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