Develpoing Community Resilience in the Land of Resilient Communities

One small family. One little patch of land. Four hearts and minds.

A few years ago we were total newbies to the application and dissemination of the concepts of ecological and social restoration. Now we feel like we’re flying.

We’re fresh off the back of teaching our second Permaculture design certificate. We’ve both taught sections of PDCs before and have co taught with many others, though this was just us; Fionn and Laura, Iyla and Oak.

The two weeks of the PDC that we had this small group of beuatiful people together, we all felt the power of collective dreaming; the possibilities of achieving our ideal culture, and the understanding that our individual actions can and do make the world of difference.

Our small dedicated group of students excitedly receiving their PDCs

We came away with an overwhelming sense empowerment, as facilitators, friends, earth stewards and keystone species.

“We got this!”

Almost as if waking from a glorious dream, the shock and reality of our current predicament came home to roost. The ancient gondwana rainforests are on fire. We’ve heard time and time again people say the rainforest can’t burn. And here we were reading and hearing that Mt. Nardi – with the highest average rainfall in all of New South Wales – was, and still is, burning.

We don’t wish to go into details of the fires themselves or our neighbourhoods response to them as you can find detailed accounts of that elsewhere. These fires were and are not isolated. There was a a state of emergency declared a few days after we returned home. There was a buzz in the air. One we could only liken to one instilled in a fear of the unknown. We’re forest people, we’re flood people, we’re not fire people… Or at least that’s what we thought.

we’ve heard it likened to applying a gas mask to yourself before you apply it to others. It would appear that when the fires here started on the Saturday, with a exception of few locals working alongside the RFS, many were doing just that. Getting their houses in order. Applying oxygen to themselves prior to allocating it to others.

Police went from door to door advising people to leave their homes, as Tuesday was set to have temperatures into the 40s with high winds. The fire front was over 10km away from the village but with high winds the chance of an ember attack were high. So we cleaned up as best we could, left out buckets all around our yurt, and we left with our two wee ones.

Fionn returned the next day, and posted this after more clean up around the house. In true permaculture fashion he had to ask, and kept on asking;

“What are the potential positive outcomes from this? In what way is this problem a solution?”

Then by Wednesday it had come to our attention that one of the communities near and dear to us was being threatened by fire. So Fionn gave a lift to one of the share holders there while Laura did the essential work of loving and caring for children and our home site. When Fionn arrived there was whole fleet of people carrying buckets to a fro, from the fire to a tanker dolling out water.

And so began the work of the next couple of weeks. Laura and Fionn joined in with an impressive number of people from our local community who had come together to address the immediate danger of the fires. Throughout this process (which is ongoing – and is likely to be for the rest of summer), there was and is a palpable connectivity being created and redeveloped between all those involved in the fires. It was brough to our attention that there was a need and/or desire for people to let off steam now that our fire had been downgraded – we were in the blue.

“there was and is a palpable connectivity being created and redeveloped between all those involved in the fires.”

All this time Fionn had been trying to complete the last section of his second semester of is permaculture Diploma. It related to facilitating participatory planning and governance. His initial hopes of beginning talks in the hope of establishing a weekly farmers market in The Channon common came to an abrupt halt when the fires started. So he asked the question, “Can a party for the firies be more than just a party?”

Talking with some of our local friends, there seemed a need for a fundraiser itself. With the desire stated by myself and Laura, with some contact with our awesome team of local go getters, and two weeks to plan it, we decided on the above.

And what a night! Circus troupes, Flamenco dancers, Gypsy jazz, 10 piece dance band, storytelling, shadow puppets, heartfelt standing ovations of appreciation, a feast for all and so much more. All by the way provided out of love from our community for our community. No one got paid a cent, and yet we managed to raise over $3000. Not bad for a little jar by the door, and some networking.

A full house in the hot The Channon Hall

It must be said that it is more likely, that an event similar to this would have happened in such an amazingly connected community. However, in no small part did the impetus given to Fionn and Laura through their study of permaculture ignite this event, the lead up meetings, and the idea for the fundraiser itself to be larger than just a fundraiser. It was a party with the specific intent of first and foremost acknowledging our awesome firies and defenders, but secondly in using this as a starting point to a new way of creating community resilience in the face of a changing climate: Intergenerational community resilience.

Upon applying self regulation and accepting feedback, it has come upon us – a small group known as The Channon Stewards – to host a small gathering of concerned local citizens wishing to contribute to the discussion around our future, and how we respond as a community to a changing climate.

Here’s to future community cohesion, networking and resilience. Together we are strong.

Our First Permaculture Design Course

We have just completed our first Permaculture Design Certificate course as facilitators.

9 of the 12 students upon completion

Fionn has taught on numerous PDCs before and Laura has also. We’ve even taught on the same PDC before, but never solely as Fionn and Laura Quinlan. This, for us, is a real milestone. Something we’re very proud of, though are still very much aware of the managing and tweaking that can and will be implemented to make our next course even better.

We began designing our course around 6 months ago. Utliising the SADIM methodology, along with broader permaculture design techniques we mapped out the desire lines of the course, stated intent, objective and desired outcomes. Some of our included intent/objectives included goals as lofty as “assisting in creation of new neurological pathways”, through to more humble objectives like, “creating a safe space”. Upon initial analysis it would seem that we either accomplished stated aims, or we certainly got very close. This was however a particularly spirited and diverse group of 12 individuals, whom without it is obvious to us that none of it would have been possible.

the crew in front of our wee plot

The course was held over two weeks at the pictresque Hare Krishna Community outside Murwillumbah in the Tweed shire.  The children joined us, tentatively introducing them as a part of our tribe and an integral part of our journey together. So with tingle of excitement for what was to come we, slightly noisily, introduced ourselves to our group of 12 budding permies.

A final design highlight (Nicole Fredman)

Throughout the course we were able to take a couple of short trips to see some of the finer points of permaculture in action. We paid a visit to Australia’s best established Syntropic Agriculture plot, run by Scott Hall and an on and off again team of willing helpers. We also invited the whole crew down to Djaning to see our ever evolving 21 acre plot, with an emphasis on closed loop systems, earth works, main frame and garden design. These trips and grand design schemes, coupled with regular morning contributions to our shared plot at Krishna village, run ins with local Syntropic marauder Thiago Barbosa, swims in the nearby river, and regular yoga sessions made for all round fun and informative two weeks.

Students planting seeds at Djaning

 

If you’re at all interested in ecology, community and self sufficiency or the environment more generally then pop along to our next course planned for 2019. See https://krishnavillage-retreat.com/ for more details.

Hippies, Activists and Permaculturalists

So we found the land we were looking for. It was close to a village – within walking distance – it wasn’t too big, and it wasn’t too small -to use for the vague ambitions we had anyway – and it had direct access to a natural water source – the beautiful Terania Creek. The area we chose also had a lot to do with the fact that Fionn grew up near by, therefore we understood the climate and had some friends we could, and have since called on to help us out in our early stages. Another major plus for the area is that The Channon and more broadly the Northern Rivers area of New South Wales, is renowned for it’s acceptance of alternative view points and pioneering, activist spirit in general. We therefore felt our attempts at living sustainably, or deep green wouldn’t be hampered by local opposition.

The Channon Market
The Channon Market

Yet all this aside, we genuinely had no idea where to start. We were still living in the UK at the time so the practicality of living and learning whilst on the land were not yet available to us. Luckily for our generation there’s a device called the internet, and so we began what we assumed would be a lengthy and tedious trawl.

On the second day of us freaking out about the big decisions and choices we had ahead of us we received an email from the local Real Estate agent who’d sold us the land with some niceties and one particular piece of information that really made our heads spin. He said that he’d just been over the road to visit the Permaculture Research Institute, and that he was amazed at what they’d been able to do and were doing with and for the land there. So we took a look. And kept looking.

This guy's our neighbour?!
This guy’s our neighbour?!

After a few months we had watched every video Geoff Lawton and his team had ever put out, were volunteering with our local team Brighton Permaculture Trust, and were spending every bit of spare time reading anything and everything from the likes of Masunobu Fukuoka, Sepp Holzer, Bill Mollison, David Holmgren and many others. We imagine this part of the story is like many others experience. Once you feel you’ve found your path you go headlong into it.

The next part of our story however, may not be entirely what you’d expect.

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The Beginning

We’re just a little family trying to do “our bit” as best we can. We are Laura, Fionn and Iyla Quinlan; wife, husband and 2 year old daughter. We packed up and left a big dirty British city to move to the sub-tropical North Coast of NSW. We sold our flat and purchased a bare, degraded, 21 acre cow pasture in the heart of a little village called The Channon.

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Our back story can and will be filled in with time. As you may have guessed by the title, this is our first post, and as yet we’re without internet. We’re also without running water, or electricity. So currently our posts will be few and far between. They’ll be put up at random intervals depending upon the grace and good will of our friends and family allowing us to use their internet at odd hours of the day and night. But we’re just hoping to document some of our struggles and victories.

We’ve been on the land, the land we’ve decided to call Djaning Farm, for 2 months now. The three of us are living in a 1974 caravan we bought from a handsome American in the nearby coastal town of Lennox Head. It’s beautiful two tone orange and brown with a gorgeous paisley interior.

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Our general aim is to provide for ourselves as much as possible, through food (vegetable, fruit, meat, dairy), water (dams, rainwater harvesting) and electricity (solar, wind), while integrating with the community as much as possible, through direct involvement in and creation of community actions (be they anti-coal seam gas protests, fundraising activities, market stalls).

One of the main driving factors in our decision to do this is so when our daughter, and any other children we may have in future and any children they may have in future, turns around when she finds out the mess the planet’s in and has been in for some time now and asks “So, what did you do?” We can gesture all around us and say “This.”

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Stay tuned for more updates. With any luck they’ll become more regular once we’ve got our first shelter built to hold our little solar system in place. Thanks for reading.

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