Category Archives: Books

The birds

A Rufus fantail pip-pip-pips in the garden. I watch it skitter along the central rib of a palm frond, which in an act of biomimicry, is also fantail shaped. The bird doesn’t stay long in one place. It swoops between frond and treetrunk, pausing  to unfurl its flashy tail, dancing from side to side. The bird is as fleet of foot as it is of wing. Two bounces and he’s off, taking his provocative self-advertisement elsewhere.

I’ve seen the Lewin’s honeyeater already this morning. I assume it’s the same bird I saw yesterday but it might not be. There are loads of them about. The Lewin’s has a liking, I’ve noticed, for the creamy two-inch trumpet-shaped flowers hanging in clusters from the drooping green stems of the male papaya tree. The birds have a knack for reaching their beaks right up inside the flowers, probing for nectar. The plundered flowers fall to the ground where they lie concentrated in piles beneath the Lewin’s favourite perches. The pattern they make on the soil a reflection of the Lewin’s desire.

I watch out the window of my studio as another creamy trumpet flower floats to the ground. The soil it lands upon is dark, rich and wet. It’s not like Richie and I to leave soil exposed: big permaculture no-no! But it’s something we’re trialling. What we’re doing is waiting for the rows of miniature broccoli, cabbage, lettuce, kailarn and kale that we sewed directly late last month to get a wriggle on: once their heads are a few inches above the soil we’ll lay on thick mulch, tucking them in to enjoy a slow season of growth and productivity. We’d never try it in summer. Too hot.

Looking again at the soil I imagine it smells sweetly of hummus, microbes and mycelium.

Like Richie and the papaya tree, the soil isn’t native to this place. It’s a ring-in. It landed here on the end of mine and Richie’s spades, gathered in wheelbarrows from the mountain of shit towering in the back of the ute: rotted cow manure from a dairy ten clicks down the road. Good Obi Obi cow shit. Continue reading

Advertisements

3 Comments

Filed under Books, Doctoral Research, Earth Care, Food, Life Writing, Permaculture, Travel, Writing

Designer as recliner (defining permaculture…)

IMG_5965 This week I’m working on my confirmation presentation: a 15-20 minute ‘lecture’ I will be giving in about two-weeks’ time to my USC peers, supervisors, faculty, the Office of Research and any one else who wants to come along (do you?). The presentation will be a summary of my proposed research, including methods and methodologies, relevant literature, significance and innovation and the nature and purpose of the creative artefact.


Note: ‘Confirmation’ (in terms of higher degree research (HDR) does not entail donning white or attending church. It’s a process whereby a ‘probationary’ candidate becomes a fully-fledged (‘confirmed’) candidate. After completing one’s ‘confirmation’ the researcher gets the red, orange or green light from the Office of Research in regard completing their research. Confirmation takes place one-year after commencement for full-time candidates, or two-years for part-time candidates.


I’m anxious about providing my audience – early on in the presentation – with a simple definition of permaculture. The definition of permaculture with which I provided my audience this week during a test-run was Bill Mollison’s classic definition of permaculture from Permaculture: A Designers’ Manual:

Permaculture (permanent agriculture) is the conscious design and maintenance of agriculturally productive ecosystems which have the diversity, stability, and resilience of natural ecosystems. It is the harmonious integration of landscape and people providing their food, energy, shelter, and other material and non-material needs in a sustainable way.  Mollison, B 2012, Permaculture: A Designers’ Manual, Tagari Publications: Sisters Creek, Tasmania, p. ix.

Earlier today I was reading Eric Toensmeier’s Paradise Lot and came across this definition of permaculture, which I like:

Meeting human needs while improving ecosystem health. Ferguson in Toensmeier, E 2013, Paradise Lot, Chelsea Green Publishing: White River Junction, Vermont, p. 3.

How simple is that! Here’s another:

Permaculture is a design system for creating sustainable human environments.’ Mollison, B & Slay, R M  2011, Introduction to Permaculture, Tagari Publications, Sisters Creek, Tasmania, p. 1.

In Paradise Lot (a fun, enthusiast permaculture memoir that’s well worth a squizz) Toensmeier explains permaculture thusly:

Permaculture (short for “permanent agriculture” or “permanent culture”) is a movement that began in Australia in the 1970s. It brings together traditional indigenous land management practices, ecological design, and sustainable practices to create landscapes that are more than the sum of their parts. Permaculture is not so much about having a greenhouse, chickens, and an annual vegetable garden as it is about how those elements are tied together to create functional interconnections that work like a natural ecosystem. Low maintenance is the holy grail of permaculture – a food forest with a hammock hidden beneath fruit trees, where, as permaculture codeveloper Bill Mollison famously quipped, “the designer turns into the recliner. (Toensmeier, E 2013, Paradise Lot, Chelsea Green Publishing: White River Junction, Vermont, p. 2)

Recently, in my own life, the permaculture designers (me and Richie) turned into permaculture recliners. Here’s a picture of Richie chilling-out in a hammock during a recent camping trip to Booloumba Creek, Kenilworth. IMG_3317 Seeing Richie hanging out got me thinking how little of this we’ve done lately. Continue reading

5 Comments

Filed under Books, Doctoral Research, Earth Care, Permaculture, Philosophy, Writing

SEED… new beginnings

Richie

There comes a time when even the most devoted travel partners go their separate ways. After 20 months of conjoined aspirations, Richie and I are separating (temporarily!) to pursue individual learning pathways; acquiring skills, gleaning knowledge and shaping up for a abundant and diverse future together here on the Sunshine Coast.

Richie’s bitter complaints that the final leg of our overland journey from England to Australia lacked a permaculture-focus are finally being laid to rest. As the photo attests – Richie’s not only turning Australian but he’s turning Australian in a very perma-way. Today he’s off to experience what may be the most memorable perma-experience of his life: one month WWOOFing with Geoff Lawton at the Permaculture Research Institute of Australian in the Channon, Northern NSW.

While I’m beefsteak-tomato-red with envy, I have my own work cut out for me. It’s application time. Time to put my money where my mouth is. Yep, that writerly PhD that I fled to England (via India) to avoid in 2007 has returned to haunt me and this time, I aint’ gonna turn and flee.

This time, I have a story worth writing: mine and Richie’s story. A travel story. A permaculture story. An earth story. A story about seeds, ideas, social change, friendship and the beauty of the natural world. The encouragement and feedback I’ve received from you, the readers of Typo Traveller, have helped me to believe that the world is ready for SEED: a permaculturee travel memoir, and I’m ready to write it.

I’m currently in the process of writing a proposal and approaching supervisors to oversee the work. While Richie’s digging swales and tweaking irrigation systems, I’ll be writing literature reviews and pawing through old university transcripts for evidence that I’m a hardy, worthy, creative, credible PhD candidate.

In the meantime, if the writing becomes too much, and I find I need a break, there’s my parents’ potato patch to water; an ageing shed to pull down; Augustino corn to hand-pollinate; dill to plant; sourdough starter to feed; kefir to culture; my sisters’ herb garden to cultivate… and the beautiful Sunshine Coast hinterland to re-explore.

Did I mention books to read – Waterlog, Bird Cloud, The Wild Places, The Old Ways, Permaculture Design by Aranya: A step-by-step guide, Do Travel Writers Go to Hell…?

Bon Voyage lover-brother, Richie, go well! ‘I’ll see you soon…’

p.s Sorry about the photo, I couldn’t help myself! 😉

6 Comments

Filed under Books, Culture, Earth Care, Food, Permaculture, Travel, Writing

stars over kuta

IMG_4206

The three brightest stars in the sky above Kuta Beach are not stars at all, they’re aeroplanes. They orbit the sky, once, twice, before descending. I watch as they approach, becoming larger and more fanta-coloured as they draw near.

The aeroplanes drop like muscular angels to the earth, chasing one another up the runway, lifting the skirts of their wings like frisky schoolgirls, teetering on the narrow lip of land that separates runway from sea. Finally, they come to a standstill before the crooked elbow of the disembarkation ramp, disgorging another fat helping of tourists into the swollen body of the Denpasar Bali airport.

To balance out the equation, three aeroplanes take off. They enact the dance in reverse, lifting their gaze to the horizon, hunkering down, and launching themselves at the sky. As they claw their way up into the stratosphere their blunt bodies shed vortex after vortex of spent air molecules. The sound falls like a meteor shower on my head, mingling with traffic to create a peculiarly Balinese symphony. The change in air pressure as the planes fly overhead leaves me flattened and subdued.

IMG_4256

an aeroplane coming in to land at Denpasar Airport

bright star... ? aeroplane

bright star… ? nina, aeroplane & sea

In contrast to the antisocial airport, the beach is full of human-friendly shapes: surfers, mandorla shortboards and the pleasingly symmetrical silhouette of traditional Balinese fishing boats, jukung. Lifeguards in Baywatch buggies ply the shoreline. Dogs on leads buck their owners in a comic play of walker and walked, whilst higher up, on the tree-line, the well-heeled make ready for a performance of gamalan, sipping cocktails with names more redolent of the Carribean than this overpopulated strip of beach that lies terrorised and trembling under the flight path of the Denpasar Bali airport.

IMG_4182

IMG_4199

The human magnitude of the beach is astounding: surfers and their girlfriends; honeymooners; gangs of local youth who have come to perve on bule in bikinis; hawkers selling beer; photographers; wedding parties; families; schoolgirls. Amongst the masses there are tetchy parents, who at this late stage in the day have surrendered, like cornered sloths, to the devilish antics of their children: I watch as one embattled father pivots in the sand, permitting his 2-foot son to fill his pockets, hair, underpants and ears with as much sand as his eager hands can gather. Continue reading

12 Comments

Filed under Books, Culture, Earth Care, Food, History, Travel

TRAVEL, EAT, SLEEP

IMG_3470

Travel, eat, sleep. Boil mine and Richie’s lives down to their bare bones and there’s little more to them at the moment than these three things: travel, eat, sleep – each element supplied in fluctuating amounts of excess and scarcity.

Among the three, Travel is the undisputed heavyweight champion: the other two, eating and sleeping, are its dependants: we eat as much as necessary to sustain ourselves during our travels, and sleep as much (or in this case, as little) as travel permits. More often than not, we do two of the three activities simultaneously: eating while we travel, sleeping while we travel, and in some cases, dreaming of eating and travel while we sleep.

toying with the idea of sleep

toying with the idea of sleep

Out of the last eleven nights: we’ve travelled from Koh Phangan to Yogyakarta; spent two nights aboard ferries and two aboard trains; had seven changes of bed; entered our 18th and 19th countries in 15 months; and covered a total distance of approximately 3, 500km. No wonder we feel tired!

The panoramas of rice fields and jungle glimpsed from the window of the train from Jakarta to Joygyakarta twist our necks and put our noses out of joint, making us wisftful for experiences we won’t be having, not this time. Volcanoes, crater lakes, rice terraces and national parks beckon from the pages of the Indonesia Lonely Planet, threatening to turn us aside from the task at hand, which is, finding a flightless passage from Indonesia to Australia.

“On our way back to England,” / “next time” / “if we do this jounrey in reverse” I find myself fantasising twice, sometimes three times a day, “we’ll come back here” / “we’ll climb Mt Bromo” / “We’ll visit Ijen” / “We’ll go via Papua New Guinea to the Philippines”. Richie shakes his head, smiling at my optimism. He pretends he knows better but I know for a fact that he too is planning the return journey from Australia to England: first New Zealand, then the Americas from south to north, arriving in Ireland from Canada, from Canada to Wales, then finally across to England. We’re as bad as each other.

Richie, you see, has his heart set on Uluru. Meditating on the red rock would be a peerless way to signal our arrival: “Hello Australia, we are here, please give us the best.” Richie could stage a rave and I’d give Alice a dance performance the likes of which it had never seen, not since Felicia and her feathered friends pulled into Alice in a shiny candy-pink bus. Continue reading

5 Comments

Filed under Books, Culture, Food, Travel

‘dem APPLES

IMG_7476

When you’re travelling some days turn out scrambled and others sunny-side up. Our day in Almaty was going the way of the former: scrambled. The apples, we were told, were no longer on the trees, and the co-ordinates we’d been given for the wild apple forests were more than a day’s walk away, beyond the reach of Almaty’s public buses and the elasticity of our rapidly shrinking budget.

In the Sayran Bus Station we picked up a weak wifi signal, slapped out the laptop, and stared in befuddlement at a Google Satellite image. N43.22.11’, E77.40.36’ was a nameless collection of bunched green ridges, gullies and veins of rock. With a little over 24 hours  remaining on our Kazakhstan visas, finding Malus sieversii would be like looking for a needle in a haystack with the added diversion of a ticking time bomb resounding in our ears. Admitting it hurt like a shot in the foot. “Sorry guys it’s off the cards”.

IMG_7467

Our timing in Kazakhstan had been off from the start. By the time we entered the country on the 14th of October half of our 30-day Kazakhstan visas had already elapsed. It was our fault really, a foolish burst of optimism that had made us think we could dance our way around Russian visa red tape in Tbilisi in under three weeks. The two unscheduled weeks in Astana waiting for our China visas was the final undoing. We’d gone about it all wrong, and as a result, we’d be entering China sans the precious Malus sieversii seeds. Continue reading

3 Comments

Filed under Books, Culture, Earth Care, Food, Permaculture, Travel, Uncategorized

East is east

Not to touch the earth,
Not to see the sun.
Nothing left to do but
Run, run, run.
Let’s run.
Let’s run.
– ‘Not to Touch the Earth’, Jim Morrison –

The dispersing of students after the PDC brought us to the steady conclusion that it was high time to make tracks. With our new recruit, Sam, we packed bags and gathered our strength. Let’s go! “To the East, to meet the Czar…”

The train tracks ate up the miles. Shades of KLF Chillout Album as ambient sounds, lights and the sporadic music of doors opening and closing rippled through the carriage. Lying prone on the grimy floor of the 2nd class carriage. Smudgy faces through compartment windows, cigarette smoke from the toilet. Night tasting like ash and Sal, or was it Dean Moriarty, whispering in my ear… “Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me, as is ever so on the road.” 

With inertia overcome the road became our only goal. East, ever east.

Train-bus-train-bus-bus. In 31 hours we unravelled the 1,200km from Malin to Istanbul. 2 borders in 12 hours.

4am Istanbul. Nothing to do. Dark. A mist of rain. Find bearings. Coffee. Wait for the train station to open. Train tracks under construction. Change of plan. A bus. Otogar. Ankara. Peak hour traffic. Miss our stop. Run. Sweat, sweat… the Dogŭ Express. Made it! “Let this be a lesson to us,” Richie warns, “you always need longer than you think!”

Our third night since leaving Malin, our first bed: 4-berth carriage aboard the Dogŭ Express. Clean sheets and a pillow. Luxury!

Continue reading

3 Comments

Filed under Books, Culture, Earth Care, Food, Travel