Author Archives: Lis

Grow with the flow …. and "knowledge philanthropy"


One of the first words my twin boys learnt was “bird”. As toddlers they stood at the glass doors looking out into our courtyard and were far more interested in the life before them than the plastic toys behind them. While they were in pre-school I joined them in their love of birds and spent a year illustrating birds for a brochure on the birds of the Blue Mountains and also for a book called Wild Neighbours. You could say we had an above average fondness for feathered creatures … that is, UNTIL I started gardening. Continue reading

Dreaming big, living small, surviving lightning and not postponing joy

My children don’t want to postpone joy. They dream big and want to try things, see things, be with us (still), and have fun. I ache for them and their future but sometimes I have to let go and experience the joy of simply being alive with them. For that reason, on the last day of school, we bought an old low-tow hydraulic pop-up caravan (that our 4 cylinder car can drag along), and on the 2nd January headed off to Narrabeen for a holiday by the sea. Continue reading

If this were the last day of your life, my friend, tell me what do you think you would do then?

I began the last year of the 20th Century celebrating the news that we were pregnant with twins. While the world was gripped by anxiety about the Y2K bug that appeared to threaten the collapse of computers, I was cocooned in my own little world and thinking of making a t-shirt “Y2 Kids?”.

11 years later, I’ve just finished the first decade of the twenty first century. Our 10 year old boys partied until midnight while I, more sedately, listened to stories about decapitated possums falling from the sky into backyards in Blackheath. As the clocked ticked us over into the next decade and the Rocky Horror Show’s Time Warp triggered a flurry of dancing, the juxtaposition of our pleasant social event against the real life night-time horror of possums being decapitated, reminded me of the relentless passing of time,

the fragility and cruelty of life and our amazing adaptability to normalise under almost any circumstance.

When the kids asked if they could go for a walk around the block, I didn’t realise that they were, in fact, facing their fear of what was happening. They were responding to descriptions of a giant flying creature decapitating possums by banding together to go to the nearby pine forest to see if they could spot it. This monster, as it turned out, is a Powerful Owl which lives on possums and sugar gliders and, as the largest owl in Australasia, has a wingspan of up to 140cm – pretty dauntingly big if you ask me!

Powerful Owl by Ben Cruachan Continue reading

The Power of Community

There’s very little that could be more powerful than a group of people with the same goal working together. Last Saturday, after one hour of throwing ideas around, 12 of us permablitzed for 3 hours to transform  a neglected patch of yard into a productive herb and vegetable garden. What was achieved in an extremely enjoyable morning would have taken the owner of the property at least 36 hours to achieve on his own … probably longer given that the group dynamic meant that energy levels were high and everyone was motivated to get the job done quickly. Continue reading

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Habit is habit

As I well know, it’s one thing to know how to do something but another thing to actually do it! On June 11th I set myself the challenge of gardening as if my life depended on it and since then I’ve been harvesting something from the garden every day. It had seemed as though it would be such an easy thing to do but, in fact, actually moving towards using, let alone producing, all your own vegetables requires a major shift in both thinking and behaviour. Suddenly, instead of just quickly throwing something together for dinner, I’ve had to think about what’s available in the garden and then about how to create a meal around it. I’ve had to, for example, take the time to make a stock with what I’ve got, rather than buying a packaged variety readymade from the shop. Continue reading

In Grave Danger of Falling Food

Who would have thought with the heavy frosts we’ve had and the constant attacks of raider birds like cockatoos, king parrots, bowerbirds and currawongs, that you could simply walk out into a Blue Mountains Garden on a freezing cold winter’s day and harvest a bowl full of these glorious crimson tamarillos … but that’s exactly what we did do today when our permaculture class visited Ken and Jan Goodlet’s inspirational Food Forest in Hazelbrook. Continue reading

Trial and Error

These are the other members of the Seedsavers Group I’m a part of – Francoise, Kate and Adele with Rosie standing in the front, and Francoise holding …..  This was obviously taken before the cold set in! The great thing about our group is that we meet every Wednesday and share gardening notes, seeds and, as often as possible, actually plant out containers of seed. Another great thing is that we share our trials and errors … with potatoes, for example, we all planted at vastly different times and have now been able to compare notes. Continue reading

Gardening as if my life depended on it

There is a most overwhelming smell that fills the air when nasturtiums die. Last night the temperature got down to -2.5C and my beautiful nasturtiums all collapsed. I checked my post last year and the photo is almost identical – the only difference this year is that the frost came 10 days later than it did last year. Thank goodness I experimented with making nasturtium pesto last Sunday before I lost them all. It’s high in vitamin C so has hopefully bolstered my immune system to cope with this cold snap. Continue reading

Sequester Water AS WELL AS Carbon!

“What permaculturists are doing is the most important activity that any group is doing on the planet”
David Suzuki

The distribution of atmospheric water vapor, a significant greenhouse gas, varies across the globe. During the summer and fall of 2005, this visualization shows that most vapor collects at tropical latitudes, particularly over south Asia, where monsoon thunderstorms swept the gas some 2 miles above the land. (Credit: NASA)

If humanity is to survive it is imperative not just to reduce future CO2 emissions but also to find ways to take CO2 out of the atmosphere AND to sequester water in the natural systems which stored and cleaned it so well for so long.

“We now think the water vapor feedback is extraordinarily strong, capable of doubling the warming due to carbon dioxide alone.”

The rehabilitation of soil and aquifers with water sequestration programmes may help

us reduce climate extremes by helping us deal with one of the main consequences of global warming – desertification.

Click here to read the full article on the Blue Mountains Permaculture Institute Site.