Tag Archives: Pizza

The Many Temptations of Dali Old Town

Dali, in China’s Yunnan province, is a pleasant place to connect and re-root. There’s plenty of sunshine, good food and a multitude of comforts: hot showers, western loos, pizza, cake and coffee. Invasive foreign species like Brits, Aussies, Japanese and Canadians have long found a toehold in Dali, grafting themselves onto the cultural landscape. Yunnan is, after all, China’s most biodiverse province.

The melange of east and west, old and new works magic on Chinese tourists, who flock from all over the country to experience a neat and palatable version of their history. Trailing like unruly schoolchildren behind garishly dressed Bai cheerleaders, they traverse the city form south to north, parting enthusiastically with money for broiled Dali cheese, roast chestnuts and bolts of blue and white hand-dyed batik. Chinese tourists with oversized Nikon cameras startle hippy travellers, who make faces behind cocked pints of beer. “5 kwai a photo,” the reluctant models joke.

Bai tour guides, representatives of one of the region's ethnic minorities

Bai tour guides, representatives of one of the region’s ethnic minorities

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Filed under Architecture & Design, Culture, Earth Care, Food, History, Philosophy, Social Justice, Travel

12 Principles of Permaculture

Let’s get things straight. ‘Permaculture’ is not gardening. It’s the conscious design of “landscapes which mimic the patterns and relationships found in nature, while yielding an abundance of food, fibre and energy for provision of local needs” (David Holmgren). In short, it’s a design system for creating human settlements that function in harmony with nature.

Now we’ve got that settled, let’s travel in time to Malin Hermitage, Transylvania: home of Philippe, Adriana, 7 donkeys, two dogs and one cat. You’ve arrived in time for the commencement of the 2012 72-hour residential Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC), taught by Pascale and a motley crew of 7 facilitators (representing 4 different countries).

Malin Hermitage, Romania

Donkeys!!!

19 students are in the process of arriving. You know no-one. You know nothing, only that you’d like to live closer to nature, developing the skills and habits of mind that will help you materialise an abundant, connected and self-reliant future. Maybe you’re a student, an activist, unemployed, a builder, an engineer, a mother, or a grandfather – perhaps you’re none of these. The point is, you’re here to learn. So let’s get started.

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12 PRINCIPLES OF PERMACULTURE

  1. Observe and Interact
    By taking the time to engage with nature we can design solutions that suit our particular situation.
  2. Catch and Store Energy
    By developing systems that collect resources when they are abundant, we can use them in times of need.
  3. Obtain a yield
    Ensure that you are getting truly useful rewards as part of the working you are doing.
  4. Apply Self Regulation and Accept Feedback
    We need to discourage inappropriate activity to ensure that systems can continue to function well. Negative feedback is often slow to emerge.
  5. Use and Value Renewable Resources and Services
    Make the best use of nature’s abundance to reduce our consumptive behavior and dependence on non-renewable resources.
  6. Produce No Waste
    By valuing and making use of all the resources that are available to us, nothing goes to waste.
  7. Design From Patterns to Details
    By stepping back, we can observe patterns in nature and society. These can form the backbone of our designs, with the details filled in as we go.
  8. Integrate Rather Than Segregate
    By putting the right things in the right place, relationships develop between those things and they work together to support each other.
  9. Use Small and Slow Solutions
    Small and slow systems are easier to maintain than big ones, making better use of local resources and produce more sustainable outcomes.
  10. Use and Value Diversity
    Diversity reduces vulnerability to a variety of threats and takes advantage of the unique nature of the environment in which it resides.
  11. Use Edges and Value the Marginal
    The interface between things is where the most interesting events take place. These are often the most valuable, diverse and productive elements in the system.
  12. Creatively Use and Respond to Change
    We can have a positive impact on inevitable change by carefully observing and then intervening at the right time. Continue reading

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What’s Cooking?

One of the things I miss most when I’m on the road is spending time in the kitchen with Mum. For me, cooking with Mum is one of the ‘constants’ linking my infancy to adolescence, and my teens to early adulthood. It sustained me when I was low, and relaxed me when I was taut enough to snap. It gave Mum and I the opportunity to talk things over: with hands busily chopping and whipping our mouths could speak our minds, and before we knew it we were pulling freshly baked ideas and perspectives out of the oven.

My first memory of cooking with Mum is being allowed to lick cake batter from the wooden spoon – chocolate cake was my favourite. Mum was never fussy about hygiene. Fingers had as much of a place in the mixing bowl as whisks, forks and spoons. As long as you helped clean up afterwards you could make as much mess as you wanted.

From beating cake batter it progressed to poking cloves into sandy-coloured batches of kourambiethes and collecting fistfuls of mint and parsley from the garden for tabbouleh. Fiddly repetitive jobs were my favourite. Helping to peel and core apples for stewing, and chopping walnuts for Mum’s coveted baclava were two of my favourite jobs.

Later I became adept at more complicated tasks like judging the correct amount of nutmeg to incorporate into the sienna cake, and ascertaining when the bechamel sauce was adequately thickened.

Nothing was ever measured in my mother’s kitchen. We had a set of measuring cups and spoons that lived at the back of the cupboard where they were rarely, if ever, thought about let alone used. Instead, Mum preferred to use a heavy squat ceramic mug to do her measuring. Trust Mum to invent her own standard measure!

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Hossin’ it to Venice

Richie and I have been known to attempt rash and zany things, especially whilst on the road. A whiff of adventure, a challenge, a dare, and we’re off, scheming of ways to reach B from A; testing the mettle of our spirits and the imperviousness of the soles of our hiking boots.

If they were made for walking, what’s the point in standing still?

It was during a particularly low moment during our stay in Barcelona that we decided to intercept Richie’s parents on their 18-day cruise of the Mediterranean. We were lonely and could do with a merry rendezvous. On the 14th of April Kay and Steve would be disembarking the Queen Victoria in Venice. Why not surprise them there, and spend a memorable 6 hours walking the streets; lagoon water lapping at our toes and the taste of gelato in our mouths.

Reaching Venice on the 14th left us with a window of 4 nights to get from Figueres (in the northeast Spain). We considered flying, then thought better of it. Why not hitch?

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