Over the last week I’ve been going a lot of thought to a design for improving and maintaining soil fertility and increased biodiversity of fauna, here in our garden in the Andalucian hills. With the permaculture ethic of people care ever central to my design work, one of the other functions of the design is to constantly beneficial connections with the other people who own and farm the land in our local community.
Here in March, there is a beautiful abundance of diverse spring flowers, which grow naturally as ground cover. Many neighboring landowners spray their land with glyphosate to get rid of the cover. For some of the olive and almond farmers, its done to make harvesting the crops easier. For others, the reason seems to be a mix of making the land look ‘neat’ and tidy, alongside reducing fire risk in the summer. The bare land looks and feels dead…any rain that falls erodes the soil. Many of the farmers who spray under trees, then apply large quantitates of synthetic fertilizer to improve the next years harvest.
Our land has been sprayed routinely, until we moved here last year. The soil lacks much organic matter at all, although its been encouraging to see an increased worm life in the garden over this winter.
In the past we have used cow/chicken manure from our animals, alongside home made compost to increase fertility in our edible garden in Yorkshire. Here in Spain we are thinking about stock free systems for our design, which so far includes: -
* Growing borage, and hopefully comfrey later. These are amazing pollinator attractors, deep rooted movers of nutrients, and we will be composting the plants, and making fertilizer ‘tea’ from the leaves to feed fruiting edible plants.
* Chopping and gathering nettles for a ‘tea’ to feed plants in their growing stage (nitrogen).
* Chopping and dropping many of the ground cover ‘weeds’ (leaving some to flower for pollinators, and because they look pretty). This will add organic matter as well as mulch between plants, ensuring less evaporation of water from the soil and exposure to the sun.
* Strimming large areas of ground cover under trees, leaving the soil covered and the roots present, minimizing erosion, reducing loss of water and nutrients from the soil, but hopefully will look neat and be a minimal fire risk near to the ground.
* Growing beans as nitrogen fixers, and for added organic matter
* Chipping pruned branches, using the chipped wood as mulch.
“How can we be build a new world when people are so deeply damaged by the old?”
City of Refuge is Starhawk’s long awaited powerful and profound sequel to the Fifth Sacred Thing. It’s actually the 3rd novel of the story that begins in the 1960’s in Walking To Mercury. Although there is been a gap of over 20 years since Fifth Sacred Thing was published It expertly flows to take up the story as if it were written to further the tale of a much more recent novel.
Set in California 2049, the scene is set of a land of great contrasts. Califia in the North, protects the Elements, the four sacred things –air, fire, water, and earth—and values diversity, community, sharing power and responsibility. The Southlands are ruled by a fascist regime in which a small minority hold financial control, children are bred to be soldiers and disposable sex slaves - and rape is a seen as a reward. The lands and communities of the South are toxic and dying, those in the North resilient and abundantly diverse.
It’s a novel for anyone who is passionate about the future of our Earth and her communities. Starhawk tells the story through and in, webs and connections, of love, power and magic. She brings us hope through the many examples of solutions of healing and regeneration described . Although fiction, City of Refuge is so relevant to real life – hauntingly so at times. The challenge of inciting revolution in such a society as the Southlands, by building a city of refuge within it, is an ethically complex task for revolutionaries of the North . It is hugely inspiring to all of us who are working hard to create social and environmental change.
Many of the most horrifying elements of the book (violence and oppression of both land and people), are so, because they are not far in reality to the world we live in today. In comparison, the story also holds many beautiful descriptions of what large scale communities and land use designed with permaculture principles and ethics, can be like. Starhawk’s fiction is a deeply inspiring look at what is actually possible for a solutions focused healthy future.
In the afterword of the book, Starhawk summarises how the changes in our world over the last twenty years have influenced her thinking as an activist, ecofeminist, pagan and teacher and then how she approached writing the book .One major factor is that California Is now year on year living the very real impact of climate change, which was still only a growing concept in the early 90’s when the Fifth Sacred Thing was written. Another challenging subject explored well in the book is Non Violence and its place in a healing world – given the severity of aggression used to control whole communities here in 2016, is it truly possible for the story’s Army of Liberation to use non violent only tactics?
City of Refuge can certainly be enjoyed as a stand alone book and by folk who have never heard of permaculture. There are also many beautiful layers that we as permaculture designers and practitioners will appreciate to a new level as the story weaves through the principles, ethics and many, many design elements and systems as a permaculture designer and activist, I find everything I love in this novel: powerful story-telling toward a different and better future, deep respect for the power of growing and sharing health promoting food, liberated sexual images and identities, genuine love and care for the characters and plenty of plot twists which meant I really didn’t want the story to end .
Starhawks work has been a major influence in my life since my teens and I’ve been looking forward to the City of Refuge ever since I knew of its creation. In all honesty I can say its one of the best novels I’ve ever read. My reactions to the story line: - fear, horror, humour, hope, pride, determination and extreme grief changed from one hour to the next – the 650 page book was hard to put down! I’m now looking forward to re reading both Walking to Mercury and The Fitth Sacred Thing, before taking my time with a more slower, thoughtful read of City of Refuge again. I know those creative layers hold many more pause times for reflection, visioning and designing for healing our broken Earth.
Starhawk talks about writing the City of Refuge in this link
Ive seen such wonderful posts throughout social media today, to mark International Women's Day 2016 - #IWD2016 -my favorite was this beautiful film from www.wiseatheart.com and shared via Permaculture Magazine
Inspired by so much of the energy from #IWD2016 I’ve been spending some time reflecting on all the wonderful women who impact my life at the moment – here are some of my thoughts of gratitude
Women who write the books I read, (and often review);
Women who I rarely (if at all ) meet face to face, but who are my friends and positive connections in the big wide world of social media;
Women who teach me, through courses, workshops, by example, and the other women who attend those events, with many of whom I stay friends with long after;
The global network of women who inspire me with their practice, knowledge and stories;
Many women working at strategic and national levels to generate political changes towards equal, balanced healthy lives, w3that are prioritised and happen , and women working for grassroots organisations with similar goals;
Women health care professionals I work alongside, who inspire my passion about quality of life as we die, Many of my patients and their families too ;
Women who design systems for healing and regenerating land, communities and self using permaculture principles and ethics;
My diverse group of friends, long term, and transient;
Women who farm to grow the food I eat;
My wonderful WISE (Women Inspiring Stories of Empowerment) group whose monthly Skype presence and space has given me so much so far this year, even in its short life;
Women in my local communities who work in local business and run services to help and support me with my day to day life needs;
Women and girls in my family, present in this world, and those no longer alive - especially my mum, Mo, whose letters wrote before my birth are teaching me about the similarities in politics, adventure in life and compassion we share ;
My Goddess daughter and other young women who inspire hope for your next generation;
And of course my beautiful partner and soul mate , H x
regular updates and reflections about the permaculture designs in my life