So far… 25th September 2017

That post-monsoon feeling…
Fresh air …   fresh mind …   fresh day.

The spinach, tomatoes, capsicum, beans, along with vast amounts of chilli have emerged amongst the  cosmos and local flower species helping brighten up Aranya’s kitchen garden.  The kitchen garden is zone 1 (permaculture),  the area closest to the home (farmhouse). It contains the crops that require frequent attention and the flowers that help attract the wonderful pollinators, making it a vibrant, lively backdrop to those later summer afternoons.

The farm is presently a semi-permacultural operation. Raja (founder of Aranya), has been slowly implementing permaculture design principles into the farming system to strengthen the overall agro-ecosystem and regenerate the soils and surrounding vegetation.

So, what is this ‘permaculture’?

Well, in summary, permaculture is actually a set of ethics and design principles that guide farmers and growers on the best ways to design their farms and lifestyles, into what is best described as a sustainable synergy. It advocates learning from nature and making use of, and working with, all the natural feedbacks and relationships within the farm’s ecosystem(s). The founders of permaculture, Bill Mollison and David Holmgren, really understood the need for holistic agricultural systems that integrate society into nature. As Holmgren summarises, permaculture is an agricultural system with… ‘Consciously designed landscapes which mimic the patterns and relationships found in nature, whilst yielding an abundance of food, fibre and energy for provision of local needs. People, their buildings and the ways in which they organise themselves are central to permaculture. Thus the permaculture vision of permanent or sustainable agriculture has evolved to one of permanent or sustainable culture’. -Bill Mollison n.d.

We have included two tables adapted from both Bill Mollison’s and David Holgren’s resources on, firstly, ethics, and following shortly afterwards, the guiding principles.

Ethics of Permaculture adapted from Bill Mollison: An Introduction to Permaculture, 1991. See references. 
1: Care for Earth: Respect and care for the earth and all its resources.
2: Care for People: Respect and care for oneself and community, facilitating access to nature’s resources.
3: Return of Surplus: Only use what is needed for oneself and community and return surplus back to nature to be further used in the system.

The ethics of permaculture demonstrate the emphasis on ‘do no harm’, or at least, ‘do least harm’.

The principles enable a functional design to be established whereby the layout of the farm draws connections between all of the elements conventionally seen a separate operations, creating a more resilient agro-ecosystem. Permaculture is ‘…a philosophy of working with rather than against nature; of protracted and thoughtful observation rather than protracted and thoughtless labour; and of looking at plants and animals in all their functions, rather than treating any area as a single product system.’ (Mollison and Slay, 1991).

The 12 Principles of Permaculture adapted from David Holmgren’s, Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability, 2002.
1: Observe and Interact: Observing and recognising the natural features of the environment and designing solutions for specific areas, circumstances and objectives from what has been learnt.
2: Catch and store energy: Catching and storing energy at times of abundance to use in other times of need. This can include solar energy, water resources and biological waste, including dead organic matter.
3: Obtain a yield: Making sure the work and time brings rewards of yield which can be used for sustaining one’s wellbeing and efforts. 
4: Apply self-regulation and Accept Feedbacks: minimise negative feedbacks, and relationships that reduce the ability of the agroecosystem to self-regulate and yield. Reducing labour input and corrective management.
5: Use and Value Renewable Resources and Services: maximise the usage of renewable resources and services and minimise the use of non-renewable resources and services nature provides.
6: Produce no Waste: Use all the waste that is produced and see its value for other applications.
7: Design from Patterns to Details: Use the patterns in both society and nature, and how they form a relationship together, to create a design. Create a design which embodies these patterns and fill in the details along the way.
8: Integrate Rather than Segregate: Integrate plants together and form relationships that facilitate growth and development through positive feedbacks rather than isolating plants.
9: Use Small and Slow Solutions: Small, slow systems are easier to manage sustainably, using local resources and maximising the efficiency of the small ecosystem for that particular purpose.
10: Use and Value Diversity: Diversity gives way to greater resilience against risk. It can also enable new relationships and feedbacks to take place which can facilitate better establishment and use of the environment.
11: Use Edges and Value the Marginal: Edges are often very productive and valuable elements to an ecosystem, bridging beneficial relationships betwn,juj bgneen different sections.
12: Creatively Use and Respond to Change: Observing a change can enable one to intervene and use that change to benefit the system. Seeing change as an avenue of opportunity rather than a problem.

The principles above are an adaptation to Mollison and Slay’s 1991 Introduction to Permaculture. It features in our farming report for small scale farmers wanting to convert their farms into organic/permaculture operations. The report is brief but demonstrates different farming techniques, and the methods, to support the philosophy of organic permaculture farming. You can access it here if you are curious or would like a fuller understanding of how we farm.

So far…

The feature photo (the one at the top), shows the foundations for the actual cafe building. At the moment it looks like a question mark, and in the future, we hope it will actually take the shape of a question mark, well, at least the first six feet of the wall. The plan as it stands is to use a combination of stone and rammed mud to create the walls of the cafe, then, over the coming months we will be figuring out whether we want geodome roof or to experiment with other materials. Once the farmhouse is finished, it will operate as the office and communal room, with a small kitchen and dining area that will have charging points for phones and other devices. The weekend cafe will operate from the farmhouse until the cafe building is up and running.

mangopeople bamboo geodesic dome
Geodesic Dome

Over time we will be creating lots of seating areas in between the trees and flowers. We have erected the first bench in the shade, making a super spot for morning yoga, or even just a cup of tea. We collect and buy the stones for construction, but these ones we luckily found and had available already. It’s a simple design, but very functional, and the stones were free!

Little stone bench
Stone Bench

If you are interested in the activities at Aranya, why not visit? We welcome volunteers, visitors and anyone who is interested in, or passionate about, natural building, organic/permaculture farming, participatory rural development, with an emphasis on participation, or even if you just want to join in the fun! Visit our volunteers page for more information on how to get involved or simply contact us.

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Holmgren, D., 2002. Principles and PathwaysBeyond Sustainability. Hepburn: Holmgren Design Service.

Mollison, B. n.d. About Permaculture. Available at: [Accessed 23 September 2017].

Mollison B. and Slay, R. M., 1991. Introduction to Permaculture. Tyalgum: Tagari Publications.


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