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Permablitz – the way of the future?

There’s nothing new when it comes to running a working bee to get a job done. The concept of working bees has been around as long as human community has, and most of us will have been involved in a working bee at some point in our life…

So what’s different about Permablitz?

Permablitz is a movement which originates in Melbourne, founded by two passionate Permaculture designers: Adam Grubb and Dan Palmer. Since it’s beginning in 2006, it has very quickly become a worldwide movement, quite rightly following in the footsteps of Permaculture itself.

[From the Permablitz website] Permablitz (noun): An informal gathering involving a day on which a group of at least two people come together to achieve the following:

  1. create or add to edible gardens where someone lives
  2. share skills related to permaculture and sustainable living
  3. build community networks
  4. have fun

First up, a Permablitz begins with a design. All Permaculture Design Course (PDC) graduates are qualified to provide a design for a Permablitz. For a graduate’s first few designs it is recommended to get help from an experienced designer before proceeding with a blitz. This provides a fantastic opportunity for budding designers to hone their skills.

Call in the troops! Once the design has been agreed upon, materials are ordered and people are invited to attend. Sometimes there is a limit of how many people can attend due to the size of the property (for two reasons: safety, plus you want to have enough jobs for everyone). The design is talked through to all attendees and then the tasks begin. This helps everyone understand the overall picture of the design, and where their task fits into the bigger picture.

Workshops: Blitzes usually involve a number of workshops which attendees can use to brush up their skills. Usually related to the tasks being performed, workshops subjects can include: using an A-Frame to mark contours; how to create swales; installing irrigation systems; creating no-dig garden beds; how and why chicken systems work; Intro to Permaculture; planting fruit trees; the design process… needless to say learning new skills makes it incredibly valuable for people to attend a blitz.

Reciprocity. Anyone who attends 3 or more blitzes is able to propose a blitz at their property. Helps others, and you’ll get helped.

Melbourne Permablitz recently completed their 137th Permablitz! Now that’s a LOT of gardens made more productive and more efficient. As a result of each blitz, scores of people gain better understanding about what permaculture is and how effective is can be, and perhaps most importantly, blitzers are being inspired to utilise permaculture within their garden, life and the wider community.

Permablitz #100 – Lower Plenty, Melbourne

Fiona's house, Lower Plenty, just before people arrived for the blitz.

Fiona’s house, Lower Plenty, just before people arrived.

My involvement in Permablitz while I lived in Melbourne inspired me to write this article for Permaculture Tasmania. I actually got to run a blitz myself! I had been to a few blitzes, I’d met a lot of lovely people, and an opportunity too good to turn down fell straight into my lap!

From L to R: Christian Parr, Dan Palmer, Adam Grubb

From L to R: Christian Parr, Dan Palmer, Adam Grubb

Late in 2010, I had moved out of my Melbourne house in preparation for relocating to NW Tasmania. I had a few months up my sleeve and decided to offer myself up to the WWOOF network in Victoria. (WWOOF stands for Willing Workers on Organic Farms, an energy-exchange scheme. For more info visit www.wwoof.com.au). My friend Fiona spotted the opportunity and proposed that I WWOOF at her house. My task: to help design the food production elements of Fiona’s backyard, and then “why don’t we put on a Permablitz to implement stage 1?” she asked. Why not indeed!

The gathering: introduce ourselves, talk through the design...

The gathering: introduce ourselves, talk through the design…

The result was one full week of intensive designing, followed by about a month of preparation for the blitz. This being my 2nd design proposal since completing my PDC, I decided to get a second opinion from Adam Grubb. I wanted to know what he thought, whether I had missed anything, and to talk through the logistics of the blitz.

My finalised food production design for Fiona's property.

My finalised food production design for Fiona’s property.

We ended up making a few changes to the design, worked out all the necessary materials Fiona was to order, and drew up a schedule of events for the day.

Schedule for the day: Make a note of what you want to learn!

Schedule for the day: Make a note of what you want to learn!

Implementing the Swales (A-frame workshop):

Learning how to use an A-Frame, so that we could mark contours for Fiona's swales.

Learning how to use an A-Frame, so that we could mark contours for Fiona’s swales.

Marking the contour for the swale using the a-frame

Marking the contour for the swale using the a-frame

Implementing the Swales workshop:

Digging along the contour

Digging along the contour

Testing whether the swale's level or not

Testing to make sure the swale is level.

Covering the swale piping with wood chips to create a path.

Covering the swale piping with wood chips to create a path.

Both swales are ready for the fruit trees to go in.

Both swales are ready for the fruit trees to go in.

Fiona's digging the first fruit tree into place.

Fiona’s digging the first fruit tree into place.

fruit trees are in, and this area is now much better equipped to hold the water on the slope than it did before.

fruit trees are in, and this area is now much better equipped to hold the water on the slope than before.

Creating the Veggie Beds:

Talking through the process of creating the veggie beds with the group

Thomas talks through the process of creating 6 veggie beds with the group.

Marking them out

Marking them out

Digging the paths out to raise the soil level of the beds (the level paths are also mini swales to hold moisture)

Digging the paths out to raise the soil level of the beds (the level paths are also mini swales to hold moisture)

Paths and beds are prepared, now we need the irrigation pipes

Paths and beds are prepared, now we need the irrigation pipes

Irrigation workshop:

Adam prepares the irrigation pipe for the workshop

Adam prepares the irrigation pipe for the workshop

Learning how the pipe goes together

Learning how the pipe goes together

Measuring the pipe for the beds

Measuring the pipe for the beds

Putting the irrigation into place

Putting the irrigation into place

Blood and bone applied, mulch going on top, 6 beds successfully put in.

Blood and bone applied, mulch going on top, 6 beds successfully put in.

Other workshops:

Kat Lavers running an Intro to Permaculture session.

Kat Lavers running an Intro to Permaculture session.

Christian running a 'Juggle that Fruit' workshop.

Christian running a ‘Juggle that Fruit’ workshop.

Christian talking through the design: client brief, the problems, and the solutions.

Christian talking through the design: client brief, the problems, and the solutions.

Adam running a soil test workshop.

Adam running a soil test workshop.

Soil test - pH.

Soil test – pH.

I’m always astounded when I think about how much can happen in a day. A truck arrives at 7am to dump soil and wood chips on your driveway, and by 5pm it’s all gone. It’s now in your back garden in the shape of pathways, and under fruit trees. The garden is now ready for the next rain, so that it can better collect the rainwater and redistribute it around the garden to where it is needed before it runs off your property. Less waste, healthier fruit trees, healthier people. 30 people x 10 hours = amazing.

My aim in writing this article is to remind you to stay connected to the people around you. It’s not just about the ethic ‘Care of People’, but it a much larger umbrella… ‘Social Permaculture’. When we went to Fiona’s place and did all that work ‘for her’, there was so much gained by all involved, much bigger than the physical work we achieved. We grew as a community. Our human connections increased, our brain connections increased, so much happened which was invisible to the eye. Pretty amazing really.

Author: Christian Parr.

Where to from here?

The Permablitz movement is starting to get a foot hold in Tasmania. Keep your eyes peeled for activities which might pop up near you! Here’s one for those of you in the Hobart region:

http://fairfoodweek.org.au/event/permablitz/

If you want to see more photos of other blitzes that have happened in Melbourne, click here:

http://www.permablitz.net/photos

If you are interested in running a Permablitz yourself, click here for more information:

http://www.permablitz.net/resources/new-networks

 

 

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