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This blog will no longer be kept updated. Future blog posts will be featured at www.spiralseed.co.uk – see you there!

 

Make Compost Not War! and ‘Our Allotment’

This week Spiralseed are delighted to announce the relaunch of our exclusive T-shirt range, starting with our most popular designs, ‘Make Compost Not War!’ and the ‘Permaculture Mandala’ from Permaculture A Beginner’s Guide. More details about the shirts further down, but to celebrate their much demanded re-appearance I thought I’d share the publication from which one of these illustrations originated.

The ‘Make Compost Not War!’ drawing was originally created as a cover illustration for one of my very first publications. ‘Our Allotment’ was originally published in 1989, and was a 16 page A5 sized booklet of drawings for children. Drawn mostly for fun with my at that time 3 year old daughter Chloe in mind, it was intended partly as an educational tool, presenting positive imagery of  ‘alternative’ lifestyles by presenting the adventures of a ‘punk’ family growing vegan organic food on an allotment.

Details in the drawings, including the T shirts worn by the characters, give some indication of my musical tastes at the time, with anarcho-punk bands such as Chumbawamba, Conflict, The Electro Hippies, The Ex, Antisect and so on figuring prominently, as well as the causes supported in our household such as the Anti-Aparthied movement, opposition to Clause 29 (a piece of legislation from the Thatcher Government that was intended to ban ‘the promotion of homosexuality’ in schools), Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), anti-nuclear power, animal liberation, veganism and so on. Most of these were based on actual T shirts that I owned, and fittingly, many were printed by Sunrise Screenprint Workshop, with whom Spiralseed still work closely to this day!

As well as Chloe’s favourite ‘Rainbow’ comic, there’s plenty of interesting literature that reflected the reading matter likely to be found in our home, including classics from ‘alternative’ publishers Thorsons such as Kenneth Dalziel O’Brien’s ‘Veganic Gardening’ and Gertrud Frank’s ‘Companion Planting’, a copy of ‘Lib Ed‘ magazine, ‘New Leaves’, the journal of the Movement for Compassionate Living edited by the late Kathleen Jannaway, and the first edition of the short-lived but excellent ‘Crisis’ comic. The latter featured ‘Third World War’, a strip by Pat Mills and Carlos Ezquerra that “concerns a near-future where corporations have grown so powerful that they can conscript soldiers to assist them in clearing the native populations of south and central America from regions necessary for their economic stranglehold over Western consumerism”, and to this day has not been reprinted. And if you squint hard enough, the bookshelf in the background includes books by the likes of Emma Goldman, William Morris, Alan Moore and Peter Kropotkin…

You can download Our Allotment here or by clicking the image below, hopefully folks will enjoy this little period piece, an important early chapter in the history of Spiralseed, and maybe you or own children might enjoy printing it out and colouring it in despite the dated references!

Anyway, back to the T shirts…

It’s taken us a while to find a product that met our ethical and environmental requirements as well as being of the quality and specifications that we were after. However thanks to the research of our partners at the above mentioned Sunrise Screenprint Workshop we’ve sourced these amazing Salvage™ T-shirts, created from 100% salvaged materials, consisting of shredded waste cuttings from organic cotton clothing blended with recycled plastic bottles.

Salvage™ shirts are manufactured from waste product using 60% pre-consumer recycled organically grown cotton and 40% post-consumer recycled polyester. The fibres are blended into fine yarn to produce 100% recycled clothing. The shirts are then screen-printed by hand in UK exclusively for Spiralseed, using long lasting, high quality water-based inks, that are better for the environment than solvent or formaldehyde based inks.

Salvage™ products have the Global Recycle Standard Mark, and use certified organically produced cotton and certified Fair Wear Production ensuring decent local pay and working conditions.

These shirts will be on sale from our stall at the International Permaculture Convergence, or else you can order them directly from our online store with free UK postage at http://spiralseed.co.uk/products-page/wearables/

Liberation Permaculture Weekend – meet the facilitators

There has been lots of interest in and support for our forthcoming Liberation Permaculture weekend at Dial House in Essex, running shortly before the International Permaculture Convergence. There are still a few places available, so if you’ve been thinking about booking but havn’t yet done so, now is the time!

“Liberation Permaculture is permaculture that is being used for liberatory means, as a tool towards ecologically and socially just ways of living. It is a label coined from a permaculture design course that took place in North America in 2010 exploring how permaculture can be used in grassroots resistance & community organising work.
It is clear that permaculture, as a concept in itself, challenges the foundations of modern industrial civilised society, simply from its premises of recognising ecological limits and its promotion of core ethics, such as caring for people, the earth and redistributing surplus. However many criticise permaculture because it doesn’t fully challenge the roots of oppressive systems, the relationships or power at play. If we are truly to re-design our lives for freedom and autonomy and respect for the land then we need to break the denial and get to the roots of understanding our current state of affairs. If permaculture is all about relationships, then we need to consciously design for relationships without domination. This is the premise of liberation permaculture”.

Unfortunately one of our US guests, William Faith of Chicago based Genius Loci Designs, is now unable to attend. However respected permaculture researcher Rafter Sass Ferguson has been able to step into his place, and we are looking forward to welcoming his energy and contributions. The weekend will explore if, how and why to place permaculture in a wider framework of radical social change, including the liberation of our non-human co-citizens. We will share ideas, design tools and practices to bring together people who share a political affinity within the permaculture movement. The session will be a participant-led open space for discussions and development of emergent themes, sharing best practice in linking permaculture, community organising and resistance. Participants will explore anti-oppression practice and share how we design and act for social and environmental justice.

Below are interviews with the 4 lead facilitators from the popular 21st Century Permaculture radio show, which will give you an idea of their calibre and the work they are currently involved in – enjoy!

 

Pandora Thomas on Social Permaculture in the Bay Area by 21st Century Permaculture on Mixcloud

Rafter Sass-Ferguson on What is Permaculture? by 21st Century Permaculture on Mixcloud

Nicole Vosper on Permaculture & Prison Abolition by 21st Century Permaculture on Mixcloud

Graham Burnett on The Vegan Book of Permaculture by 21st Century Permaculture on Mixcloud

Liberation Permaculture Weekend and Dial House, Essex, 4 – 6 September 2015

Liberation-permaculture banner

There’s only a few weeks to go until the LIBERATION PERMACULTURE International Permaculture Convergence ‘edge’ event! Nicole Vosper (Empty Cages Design Cages Design), Graham Burnett (The Vegan Book of Permaculture), Pandora Thomas (Black Permaculture Network) and Rafter Sass Ferguson (Liberation Ecology) will facilitate a workshop that will explore if, how and why to place permaculture in a wider framework of radical social change, including the liberation of our non-human co-citizens. We will share ideas, design tools and practices to bring together people who share a political affinity within the permaculture movement. The session will be a participant-led open space for discussions and development of emergent themes, sharing best practice in linking permaculture, community organising and resistance. Participants will explore anti-oppression practice and share how we design and act for social and environmental justice.

BACKGROUND

The weekend emerged from conversations between Graham & Nicole and the continual frustrations with the Permaculture movement in the UK (gender, race, privilege, liberal perspectives, focus on lifestyle changes vs structural/radical/systematic change, desire for neutrality etc etc), and to create a space around the time of the International Permaculture Convergence to support these conversations to happen more explicitly. The workshop aims are:

  • Explore why & how to place permaculture in a wider framework of radical social change
  • Share ideas and design tools
  • Bring people together who share political affinity within the permaculture movement

LIBERATION PERMACULTURE – SOME THOUGHTS TO CONSIDER

“Liberation Permaculture is permaculture that is being used for liberatory means, as a tool towards ecologically and socially just ways of living. It is a label coined from a permaculture design course that took place in North America in 2010 exploring how permaculture can be used in grassroots resistance & community organising work. Some potential principles of liberation permaculture might be;

Principles of Liberation Permaculture

  • Places permaculture in a wider context of social change
  • Observes power relationships & structures within systems
  • Recognises oppression as part of ‘people care’ & aims to consciously design oppressive practices and mindsets out of systems for the risk of otherwise perpetuating them
  • Works in solidarity with multitudinous social struggles, indigenous peoples & ecological resistance movements
  • Ensures yields are shared across genders, races, classes, ages and so forth & challenge privilege consciously reducing inequalities
  • Supports the regeneration of our landbases without exploitative relationships and rejects speciesm and the domination of nonhumans
  • Places re-skilling in a context of increasing autonomy and self-determination
  • Takes a ‘beyond our backyards’ approach working for ecosystem & community restoration on broader scales than beyond home gardens
  • Practitoners use observation and intelligent ecological design principles to inform decision making in all areas of life, not just farms but organisations and movements
  • Places permaculture in the context of rebuilding land based cultures rather than ‘fitting in’ or mainstreaming into capitalist & oppressive societies
  • Uses the practical applications of permaculture e.g. food growing, cleaning water, to genuinely improve people’s lives beyond that of a privileged few.
  • Practitioners practice mutual aid for collective living and design systems that maximise power and relationship building within communities.
  • Ultimately liberation permaculture is about ‘obtaining a yield’, by addressing root causes of systematic dysfunction. “You cannot control a system. You can only design & re-design” – Donella Meadows

In summary, it is clear that permaculture, as a concept in itself, challenges the foundations of modern industrial civilised society, simply from its premises of recognising ecological limits and its promotion of core ethics, such as caring for people, the earth and redistributing surplus. However many criticise permaculture because it doesn’t fully challenge the roots of oppressive systems, the relationships or power at play. If we are truly to re-design our lives for freedom and autonomy and respect for the land then we need to break the denial and get to the roots of understanding our current state of affairs. If permaculture is all about relationships, then we need to consciously design for relationships without domination. This is the premise of liberation permaculture”.

- Nicole Vosper on Liberation Permaculture

There are still LIMITED places available on this weekend, find out more here

The Death of Summer – a flashback from 20 years ago…

20 years ago today I was honoured to have taken part in ‘The Death of Summer’, a pagan play put on by my great friend Paul Gravett in his back garden in north London. I was amazed today to see footage of this performance emerge after all this time, it’s especially nice to see my children Jack Burnett and Jennifer Burnett who were 2 and 4 at the time and now considerably older and bigger! I’m playing ‘The Dragon’ (dressed in red) by the way! Even more interesting from a historical perspective is the fact that a fellow attendee playing the part of “watery Ophelia”, ‘Matt Rayner’, has now been revealed to have been an undercover police officer who was spying on ‘animal rights’ activists at the time… Nice to see that public money was being so well used by keeping an eye on these sort of subversive events…

For the full story check out Paul’s blog post at Red Black and Green

 

How does the ‘Vegan’ Permaculture Design Course differ from any other Permaculture Design Course?

The Vegan Permaculture Design Course

Do you seek to live compassionately without the unnecessary exploitation of people, animals and the environment? Are you concerned about climate change, peak oil and future generations? Are you interested in changing how we interact with other species, ecosystems and our human communities? Then our Vegan Permaculture Design Course developed by Graham Burnett, author of The Vegan Book of Permaculture and holder of the Diploma in Permaculture Design and others is for you!

This summer I’ve co-taught the course at Brook End, a vegan organic smallholding in Somerset, England, NuArc Health and Wellbeing Centre in Puglia, southern Italy, and at Wild Earth Farm and Sanctuary in Kentucky. The course is adapted from the 72-hour international Permaculture Design Course syllabus and is accredited by the Permaculture Association (Britain). It covers universal permaculture ethics, principles and design methods, but a number of people have asked the question, How does the ‘Vegan’ Permaculture Design Course differ from any other Permaculture Design Course?

“The content of the specifically Vegan Permaculture Design Courses isn’t hugely different from other PDCs I’ve taught. The focus is really on design skills – learning to see patterns in nature and in human and social contexts, plus giving us the tools and confidence to take responsibility for our lives and actions, in settings ranging from food production to ecological building to woodland management to ‘green’ economics to urban regeneration. Obviously, however, we would choose venues that are vegan-sympathetic, such as Wild Earth Animal Sanctuary in the USA, or Brook End in Somerset, and would focus on stock-free methods of soil regeneration such as using green manures and tree crops rather than examples or case studies that depend on livestock. Other than this participants can be confident that we are providing a ‘safe zone’, where they will not be criticised for their lifestyle choices, whether vegan or not. Feedback from our first course was that this aspect has been greatly valued, with one person telling us that they had previously had to leave a ‘conventional’ PDC halfway through, due to feeling judged and excluded for their vegan beliefs by fellow participants, and even by the tutor.

In addition we have created spaces on the course for discussions around the wider implications of ‘veganic permaculture’. For example, how do we dismantle and replace industrial and animal agriculture with systems that are life-sustaining and liberatory? Another theme that emerged was whether a vegan permaculture (vegaculture?) needs a ‘fourth ethic’ in addition to ‘Earth Care, People Care and Fair Shares’ – one of ‘Do Least Harm’. Is it enough to simply ‘care for’ our non-human fellow earth-citizens whilst our relationships with them continue to be exploitative, or should we actively promote their recognition as self-willed beings with an intrinsic right to exist free from unnecessary harm?

Not all permaculturists or permaculture projects are vegan, and I’ve often been asked whether a completely animal-free permaculture is even actually possible. My response is, of course not, and neither would it be desirable. For example, how would we fence out the earthworms that build our soil and maintain its fertility, or the bees that pollinate our fruit trees and vegetables, and why ever would we wish to? In fact, we actively design in features that are intended to attract wildlife: Ponds for frogs, toads and dragonflies, and flowering plants to bring in the ladybirds and hoverflies that keep populations of potential pests like slugs and aphids in check, and are essential to maintaining healthy productive ecosystems. What we don’t include are those ‘system components’ that we believe perpetuate exploitative relationships with our non-human earth co-citizens, such as pigs, goats and chickens, whose primary function is the production of meat, milk and eggs.“

Graham Burnett interviewed in ‘Growing Green International’ magazine, summer 2015

We will shortly be announcing the dates for our 2016 Vegan Permaculture Design Courses, find out more here. In the meantime this autumn we will also be launching our Design 4 A.C.T.I.O.N. courses in London and Southend, so check these out too!

Who needs Bollinger???

Round our way the elderflowers are set to start blooming any day now – so here’s Spiralseed’s quick and easy guide to making your own elderflower champagne! Who needs Bollinger when you can bottle your own sunshine!!!

Elderflower Champagne

A carrier bag full of elder blossom, i.e. around 15-20 good sized heads

700g (1.5 lb) sugar

4 lemons

White wine vinegar

6 litre (1.3 gallons) water

Select the best looking clusters of elderflower blossom, preferably on a bright sunny afternoon. Discard any that are looking a bit old – these won’t be fresh and will smell ‘mousey’. Bring 4 litres of water to the boil and pour into a scrupulously clean plastic fermenting bucket. Top up with a further 2 litres of cold water. There are now 6 litres of water in the bucket. Stir in the sugar, then add the blossom, trimming away as much of the stem as possible. Add 2 tbsp white wine vinegar plus juice and zest of 4 lemons. Stir well and cover with lid. After a day or two the mixture should be fermenting, if it isn’t, add a sprinkling of wine yeast. You shouldn’t need to though as the blossom has its own natural yeast. Ferment for 4-5 days before straining off the liquid. Decant into strong bottles – those with ‘Grolsch’ style stoppers are ideal. Strong bottles with good seals are essential due to the build up of carbon dioxide during fermentation – which is what gives the drink its champagne like fizz! Stored in a cool dry place this should keep for several months – I drank a bottle I made three years ago the other day and it was still fine. Summer in a bottle!

Lots more seasonal recipes from wild foods can be found in The Vegan Book of Permaculture – order your SIGNED copy today and get a free edition of my classic vegan cookbook ‘Well Fed Not An Animal Dead!’ (while stocks last)

Permaculture Garden – International Permaculture Day, May 3, 2015

To mark and celebrate International Permaculture Day 2015 the students and teachers of the 2015 ‘Spring Into Action’ Permaculture Design Course at the Victoria Park Community Centre in Hackney, east London took time out from working hard on their group design projects to make this recording of ‘Permaculture Garden’, lyrics taken from ‘The Beetless Song Book‘ by Chris Roth. The mission was to get this recorded, mixed, edited and uploaded on the fly by the end of May 3 2015, which was achieved, but due to lack of decent public wireless internet connection I couldn’t publicise it and share it on social media until I got home in the early hours of the next day (UK time zone) but I hope it still counts and that people enjoy our small collective contribution…
Notes – ‘Masanobu’ refers to Masanobu Fukuoaka, author of ‘The One Straw Revolution’ and father of ‘No Work’ farming. ‘Wes’ refers to Wes Jackson, founder of the Land Institute, and pioneer of research into perennial grain based agriculture.

UPDATE! Exclusive video footage of this session has now been uncovered – view it below!!!

PERMACULTURE GARDEN

I’d like to be
Under a tree
In a permaculture garden in the shade
Bill Mollison
knows where we’ve been
In spiral herb garden near a glade

We’d stack our functions you and me
Designing for sustainability

Complexity
Diversity
In the permaculture garden we have made

We’d get some ducks
Use wits not bucks
Raise food with efficiency and grace
Care for the earth
know that it’s worth
Getting more familiar with our place

We’d have some fun inside zone one
No one there to tell us what to do

Plant shrubs and trees
For perennial ease
Through seas of self sown vegetables we’d wade

Mindless toil
Destroys the soil
Not to mention spirits and backs
Observation
Cooperation
in a thriving polyculture nothing lacks!

Masanobu smiles, and Wes approves
Neighbours come and visit with us too

I’d like to be
under a tree
In a permaculture garden with you
In a permaculture garden with you
In a permaculture garden with you….

Introduction to Permaculture Weekend with Graham Burnett, Dial House, Essex, 13 – 14 June 2015 – A few places are still left on this exciting weekend course!

Introduction to Permaculture Weekend with Graham Burnett, Dial House, Essex, 13 – 14 June 2015 – A few places are still left on this exciting weekend course!

Held at the idylic setting of Dial House in west Essex, home to the political punk band CRASS, this residential weekend workshop can either be considered as a ‘stand alone’ introduction to Permaculture ethics, principles and design, or else can be a lead-in to the more in depth full 72 hour Permaculture Design Course. The weekend is led by experienced permaculture teacher Graham Burnett (author and illustrator of ‘Permaculture- a Beginners Guide’, Trustee of the Permaculture Association (Britain) and holder of the Diploma in Permaculture Design).

Dial House is a sixteenth century farm cottage with a one acre garden nestling deep in the countryside in Essex, England, fringing Epping Forest. Since 1967 the place has been an ‘open house’, the base of operations for a number of cultural, artistic and political projects ranging from avant garde jazz events, founding the Free Festival movement (eg, Windsor and Stonehenge) and the anarcho-punk band Crass. After some years away from the public eye, residents Penny Rimbaud and Gee Vaucher have decided that Dial House should become a ‘centre for dynamic cultural change’, including the hosting of permaculture events.

An area of the Dial House garden is being developed as a semi-autonomous venue for gatherings, and includes indoor and outdoor classroom spaces, camping area, kitchen and fire-pit and a compost toilet as well as an orchard area, pond, living willow seat, meditation spots and many other beautiful features. Planned future facilities, which we hope to develop as part of our forthcoming permaculture weekends, include creating an earth oven and an outdoor bath, as well as becoming independent of the power grid by installing solar panels.

Accommodation

Principally camping in the Dial House garden, included in the cost of booking. You are welcome to arrive on the Friday evening before the course (after 18.00 please) to put up your tent and get settled plus join us for a bit of a social session. Please let us know if you intend to arrive on the Friday evening.

Cost

Full cost £120. Fees include, tuition, light refreshments, camping and handouts. We also have a LIMITED number of subsidised/bursary places available for people on lower incomes, please contact us for details. £40.00 (non-refundable) deposit secures your place, balance to be paid 3 weeks before course begins.

Can’t afford the course fees? Fundraise for your tuition with We The Trees!


Fundraise your course tuition with WeTheTrees!

 

Find out more and book your place here

Permaculture and Politics talk at The Bookshop Experience, Westcliff on Sea, Weds March 18

I’ll be doing a short talk plus Q&A at The Bookshop Experience, 307 London Road, Westcliff on Sea (near the junction of Hamlet Court Road, about 8 minutes walk from Westcliff Station) next Wednesday (18th March) evening at 6.30. Come along and find out more about permaculture and politics, plus support one of Southend’s finest independent bookshops!

“In the world of political activism, we are searching for a new way to reach the people who need us the most. How do we get the Good Green News to the electorate, whilst keeping on message? Perhaps our biggest alliance, which may also have a lot of the answers we are searching for could lie with Permaculture. Graham Burnett, Permaculture Guru, Green Friend and general local good bloke tells us how with his talk “Permaculture Principles in politics” next Wednesday 6.30pm this will roll into the Green Party Meeting. There will be time to purchase Graham’s books ‘The Vegan Book of Permaculture’ and ‘Permaculture a Beginner’s Guide’ and ask questions before the meeting starts.”
https://www.facebook.com/thebookshopexperience

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