My two weeks at Fair Harvest Permaculture

Wow.

The last two weeks at the Permaculture Design Certificate course at Fair Harvest in Margaret River were amazing. Wonderful. Mindblowing. Inspiring. Great. Fun. Awesome. Fantastic. Exhausting. Energizing. Whoa.

I think I’ve experienced as much in the last two weeks as I normally do in six months. It was crammed with awesomeness!

The amount of input also explains why after my last post I never got around to writing more updates. Once the day was finished I retired into my little tent quite early normally and fell asleep promptly! And if I didn’t feel tired then my evenings were taken up by sitting around the fire, drinking wine, discussing the day’s experiences and delving deep into meaningful conversations. I felt that spending time on the internet, even such worthy causes as writing this awesome blog, seemed to be a waste when compared with the opportunity of spending time with interesting and wise people.

So here we go; a summary of the last two weeks. Don’t worry, I won’t write everything down. Like Pete said last night, after I showed him all of my photos:

Pete:”Oh that wasn’t too bad. I thought you were going to talk my ear off for the next two weeks.”

Me: “… I might still do that? Those were only the photos.”

Pete: “Nope. Photos speak a thousand words. How many photos did I just look at?”

Me: “Mmhh.. [look at computer] … 466!”

Pete: “There you go. You just spoke 466,000 words, that’s enough for the next five months.”

In a way he’s right because no matter how hard I tried I wouldn’t be able to describe how amazing the food was. Even photos won’t do it justice. A wonderful selection of delicious and healthy foods for breakfast, lunch and dinner, interspersed with morning tea and followed by dessert. Oh. Yum. I ate so much. It seems no matter where I go I always tend to get known as the one who loves food and drink. Before every meal, when I saw what was being served, I did a little happy dance. Good food is just so good. And I really really really enjoyed sitting around a big long table with everyone and eating together! It reminded me a lot of growing up where, luckily, my parents always made a point of eating together. It feels so good!

Poached eggs on sourdough bread with parsley and nasturtiums from the garden. Yum!

Poached eggs on sourdough bread with parsley and nasturtiums from the garden. Yum!

Pasta bake with mushrooms, freshly caught salmon, soups, salads...

Pasta bake with mushrooms, freshly caught salmon, soups, salads…

The garlic bread was soooo good!!

The garlic bread was soooo good!!

Shepherd Pies and salads.. Yummy!

Shepherd Pies and salads.. Yummy!

Oh the salads.. and the bread...

Oh the salads.. and the bread…

Sapote chocolate mousse. YUM!

Sapote chocolate mousse. YUM!

One of our morning teas. This one was the most spectacular one though - being Jodie's birthday :)

One of our morning teas. This one was the most spectacular one – being Jodie’s birthday 🙂

Sitting around a big long table was so nice!

Sitting around a big long table was so nice!

We had a good balance of class room teaching, excursions and activities. One morning you could be studying soil chemistry over the book, next morning you’d be turning compost hands-on, another day you’d be shown around people’s properties marvelling at the way they’ve implemented permaculture principles into their backyards or farms. I learnt so so so so so much!

We learnt how to save seeds from different plant families

We learnt how to save seeds from different plant families

Saving Seed

Saving Seed

Walking with the geese

Walking with the geese

Learning about some simple tools for surveying - bamboo and a water tube!

Learning about some simple tools for surveying – bamboo and a water tube!

The Bamboo-Water-Tube surveying tool works a treat

The Bamboo-Water-Tube surveying tool works a treat

Learning how to mark out contours by surveying the landscape

Learning how to mark out contours by surveying the landscape

Seeing worm farms in action

Seeing worm farms in action

A very clever solar passive house

A very cleverly designed solar passive house

A beautiful windowsill seat

A beautiful windowsill seat

An upside down fire - works a treat!

An upside down fire – works a treat!

A couple of ponies on the farm land

A couple of ponies on the farm land

Looking over the neighbouring vineyard

Looking out over the neighbouring vineyard

Turning the compost heap. Can you see the steam?

Turning the compost heap. Can you see the steam?

The beautiful and productive veggie patch fed 20 people for two weeks!

The beautiful and productive veggie patch fed 20 people for two weeks!

Jeff's property has lots of beautiful spots like this old moss overgrown tree

Jeff’s property has lots of beautiful spots like this old moss overgrown tree

Jeff's dam has a very nice blue colour due to the type of clay. Perfect swimming hole!

Jeff’s dam has a very nice blue colour due to the type of clay. Perfect swimming hole!

Wicking Beds are a clever water conserving raised garden bed

Wicking Beds are a clever water conserving raised garden bed

Discovering azolla, an aquaculture fern. Awesome duck fodder.

Discovering azolla, an aquaculture fern. Awesome duck fodder.

Making compost tea to spray around the property

Making compost tea to spray around the property

Our teacher Bee certainly knows how to make compost!

Our teacher Bee certainly knows how to make compost!

Our teacher Bee comparing soil types

Our teacher Bee comparing soil types

A simple chicken tractor design to get on top of the Kikuyu grass

A simple chicken tractor design to get on top of the Kikuyu grass

Bee's pigs are as happy as a pig in grass.

Bee’s pigs are as happy as a pig in grass.

The dog that is about as big as the calf

The dog that is about as big as the calf

Monitoring the compost temperature

Monitoring the compost temperature

The lines running across the landscape are swales

The lines running across the landscape are swales capturing rainwater runoff

The animal management system certainly works - look at that beautiful, lush, rich pasture!

The animal management system certainly works – look at that beautiful, lush, rich pasture!

A swale is a "trench" dug level across the landscape so that the water doesn't run off but sits in it and then seeps into the ground, feeding the plants and trees planted around it.

A swale is a level “trench” dug on contour across the landscape so that the water doesn’t run off but sits in it and then seeps into the ground, feeding the trees planted around it.

We visited Bee's gorgeous property in Nannup. She's slowly replanting this steep slope.

We visited Bee’s gorgeous property in Nannup. She’s slowly replanting this steep slope.

This egg conveyor belt was so simple yet so effective. And so much fun!

This egg conveyor belt was so simple yet so effective. And so much fun!

Turn the handle, eggs magically appear!

Turn the handle, eggs appear!

Happy chooks!

Happy chooks!

Laura and Lawson's cool chicken tractor set up.

Laura and Lawson’s cool chicken tractor set up.

Excursion to Laura and Lawson's Holistic Management Farm

Excursion to Laura and Lawson’s Holistic Management Farm

We visited Laura and Lawson's Holistic Management property and watched him move the happy cattle on to their next cell-grazing pasture.

We visited Laura and Lawson’s Holistic Management property and watched Lawson move the happy cattle on to their next cell-grazing pasture. Rather than having animals on a big piece of land for a long time, and them picking the best plants until they’re all gone and leaving the not so good plants behind, the idea of cell grazing is to move them on to another small pasture quickly (e.g. daily). This has various positive effects and allows pasture to regenerate and actually improve over time.

Water Walley explaining compost toilets. They are so simple yet so good! I would love to have a compost toilet.

Water Walley explaining compost toilets. They are so simple yet so good! I would love to have a compost toilet.

Everywhere we went I could gather inspiration and ideas, such as different garden bed designs

Everywhere we went I could gather inspiration and ideas, such as different garden bed designs.

I discovered so many new plants and food. To think that there is so much edible stuff out there that we somehow don’t know about is mind boggling. I know a fair few foods and yet in the last two weeks I’ve eaten and tried so many things that I’ve either never tried before or never even knew existed.

Narrow leafed plantain - not my favourite food but edible during a zombie apocalypse

Narrow leafed plantain – not my favourite food but edible enough for a zombie apocalypse.

Chickweed or not chickweed? Learning about the fine details when identifying plants.

Chickweed or not chickweed? Learning about the fine details when identifying plants.

Learning about edible weeds that grow everywhere. I have purslane in Meeka - the chickens love it! I might claim it for the salad instead :)

Learning about edible weeds that grow everywhere. I have purslane in Meeka – the chickens love it! I might claim it for the salad instead 🙂

We harvested nettles with the intention of brewing some nettle cider. Instead we ate amazingly green nettle soup.

We harvested nettles with the intention of brewing some nettle cider. Instead we ate amazingly green nettle soup.

An Ice Cream Bean. Who would have thought awesome plants like these exist?

An Ice Cream Bean. Who would have thought awesome plants like these exist?

Chokos - I'd heard about them but never actually tried them. Yet they supplied us with lots of roasted veggies an curries.

Chokos – I’d heard about them but never actually tried them. Yet they supplied us with lots of roasted veggies and curries.

Have you ever eaten Rosella before? Quite nice!

Have you ever eaten Rosella before? Quite nice! You eat the little flower buds and they’ve got a tangy flavour.

Chewing on a carob pod. Sometimes you get a nice hint of flavour and understand why it's often used as a chocolate substitute.

Chewing on a carob pod. Sometimes you get a nice hint of flavour and understand why it’s often used as a chocolate substitute.

Strawberry Guava - YUM!!!

Strawberry Guava – YUM!!!

Lemon Verbena truly makes a delightful tea. The leaves remind me of the lemon basil I have growing at home.

Lemon Verbena truly makes a delightful tea. The leaves remind me of the lemon basil I have growing at home.

We harvested honey and I ate honeycomb, sucking the honey out of the wax. Oooooh yeah.

We harvested honey and I ate honeycomb, sucking the honey out of the wax. Oooooh yeah.

Who would have thought that the slim simple looking plants underfoot are edible? Onion grass.

Who would have thought that the slim simple looking plants underfoot are edible? Onion grass.

It's like a mini mini mini onion. Not the most amazing food but if I was starving and had lots of time on my hand I'd happily survive on this.

It’s like a mini mini mini onion. Not the most amazing food but if I was starving and had lots of time on my hand I’d happily survive on this.

Guavas are just the best. Yum yum yum.

Guavas are just the best. Yum yum yum.

Identifying plants by their pods - oak acorns, carob pods, ice cream bean.

Identifying plants by their pods – oak acorns, carob pods, ice cream bean.

A personal highlight for me was the honey harvest. I like honey. I like bees. Of course I was going to like this! We suited up in the proper white bee keeping suits and set out for the bee hives. It was fascinating seeing the hundreds and possibly thousands of bees in their hive, busily making wax cells, filling them with honey and looking after brood. I know where the phrase “busy bee” comes from; they never stand still, busily working away! First we harvested a couple of combs and put in two blank ones for the bees to fill. Then we then cut out the honeycomb. Oh, the oozy goodness, dripping down in golden droplets. For the first time in my life did I eat honey straight from the hive, wax and all. (Well I sucked the honey out of the wax and then spat the wax out.) So good. So so so so good. Not only did it hit my sweet tooth but it also reminded me just how much we rely on bees. Wouldn’t the world be a better place if more people had bee hives and more people planted pesticide-free flowering plants that fed our bees?

Juan, me, Sarah, Jodie and Sally getting ready

So. Many. Bees.

So. Many. Bees.

Can you see the golden honey?

Can you see the golden honey?

They've busily made so much wax that they even bonded the different combs together

They’ve busily made so much wax that they even bonded the different combs together

Harvesting honey, with smoke and brush.

Harvesting honey, with smoke and brush.

Sarah, Ali, Sally, Jodie and Juan in front of the geese

Sarah, Ali, Sally, Jodie and Juan in front of the geese. I felt like we were astronauts.

Carefully cutting out the honey comb. Oh yum.

Carefully cutting out the honey comb. Oh yum.

Honeycomb oh honeycomb....

Honeycomb oh honeycomb….

Since I was away from our dog Rex I was very glad to get lots of cuddles from the dogs at Fair Harvest.

Ali's dog Leo was so cute and loved his back and hips being massaged

Ali’s dog Leo was so cute and loved his back and hips being massaged. Such a gentle little soul.

Do's dog Zeli is such a cuddly dog. With her big woolly coat she certainly enjoyed a good rub.

Do’s dog Zeli is such a cuddly dog. With her big woolly coat she certainly enjoyed a good rub.

Jodie's dog Papa is hilarious - whenever something feels really good (rolling around on the grass, scratchy branches of a tree, or when you give him a rub and hit the spot) he lets out this loud and ongoing "arrwhuaawhaauurhwuaaaa"

Jodie’s dog Papa is hilarious – whenever something feels really good (rolling around on the grass, scratchy branches of a tree, or when you give him a rub and hit the spot) he lets out this loud and ongoing “arrwhuaawhaauurhwuaaaa”

The people were really what made it though. There were 18 students plus all the teachers, family, guests, friends.. You could be alone if you wanted to but you certainly never were lonely! The array of people was very interesting. From the family’s little kids to wise old people in their 70s, male, female, tall, short, teachers, nurses, students, farmers, geologists, store owners, parents, landscapers, healers, musicians, retirees, and and and. Everyone was from different walks of life with different experiences and different backgrounds. There was Sarah from Germany, Juan from Colombia, Brendan from New York, Anne born in Africa and of course lots of Aussies from the city and the country and other states. The conversations, as you can imagine, certainly never got boring!

I absolutely LOVED the community feel. The sincerity of the connections made were just wonderful. It made me realise how often we go through life without truly connecting to people. Yes, we make small talk here and we chat about the weather every day, but to have deep and meaningful conversations and discussions is really important to me. I met so many amazing people whom I’ll stay in touch with.

Jodie was quite chuffed when we nailed the Permaculture Principles. Good job team!

Jodie was quite chuffed when we nailed the Permaculture Principles. Good job team!

We had many interesting evening presentations in our classroom

We had many interesting evening presentations in our classroom

Our teacher Claire teaching us about different plant families

Our teacher Claire teaching us about different plant families

The Fair Harvest building is a beautiful venue. Especially when filled with beautiful people!

The Fair Harvest building is a beautiful venue. Especially when filled with beautiful people!

Ashby, me and our wise teacher Jeff.

Fellow student Ashby, me and our wise teacher Jeff.

All of us together :) - picture by Marnie Stagoll

All of us together 🙂 – picture by Marnie Stagoll

Presentation of certificates

Presentation of certificates

Getting our certificates at the end of the course

Getting our certificates at the end of the course

Poppy, Juan, Dave, Bec and Marnie during the certificate presentation

Poppy, Juan, Dave, Bec and Marnie during the certificate presentation

Presentation of certificates

Sarah being presented with her Permaculture Design Certificate

Poppy & Jodie

Poppy & Jodie

Jodie presenting me with my Permaculture Design Certifice, yippeee :)

Jodie presenting me with my Permaculture Design Certifice, yippeee 🙂

I'm a certified Permaculture Designer! Yeah!

I’m a certified Permaculture Designer! Yeah!

Of course we celebrated (celebration is very important!) – not only our design certificate but also the weekend before, with a wonderful pizza night under the stars, with tequila drunk out of bamboo shot glasses.

Everyone contributed pizza toppings. Yummy.

Everyone contributed pizza toppings. Yummy.

Jodie made a big batch of pizza dough for all of us.

Jodie made a big batch of pizza dough for all of us.

Sitting around the fire, talking about the world.

Sitting around the fire, talking about the world.

Who would have thought that Bamboo makes such good shot glasses!

Who would have thought that Bamboo makes such good shot glasses!

We were lucky to have a beautiful clear night to celebrate around the fire.

We were lucky to have a beautiful clear night to celebrate around the fire.

The milky way above the header tank, with the glow being from the Margaret River town site.

The milky way above the header tank, with the glow being from the Margaret River town site.

Feet up - celebration time is on!

Feet up – celebration time is on!

Celebration time!

Celebration time!

Here’s a few more impressions from the awesome time I had at Fair Harvest.

In case you get lost.

In case you get lost.

Fair Harvest is a very beautiful farm.

Fair Harvest is a very beautiful farm.

The geese are funny.

The geese are funny.

Rachel, Ben and baby George came down for Rachel's birthday. It was so good to catch up and get lots of cuddles!

Rachel, Ben and baby George came down for Rachel’s birthday. It was so good to catch up and get lots of cuddles!

Rachel, Ben and I went to Gracetown to see the Indian Ocean. Such a gorgeous place.

Rachel, Ben, George and I went to Gracetown to see the Indian Ocean. Such a gorgeous place.

Our plant identification lesson resulted in a beautiful collection of flowers.

Our plant identification lesson resulted in a beautiful collection of flowers.

The grapevine around the Fair Harvest building was getting a deeper red every day.

The grapevine around the Fair Harvest building was becoming a deeper red every day.

Our (rather pretty) sector analysis showing sun angles, prevailing winds, fire danger and surrounding nature strips that affect the property.

Our (rather pretty) sector analysis showing sun angles, prevailing winds, fire danger and surrounding nature strips that affect the property.

 Our team's design. Not bad for a first time :)

Our team’s design. Not bad for a first time 🙂

Fair Harvest is absolutely worth a visit if you're about in the South West! They often have events on.

Fair Harvest is absolutely worth a visit if you’re about in the South West! They often have events on.

I got so much out of this course. So very much.

I would like to end this post on one thought that came up at some stage during the course. I can’t even remember what sparked it or what made me feel this way but somehow I felt small. But a good small. I felt that I am part of the world, part of the universe, part of nature, connected to everyone and everything. And that feeling taught me to let go of always trying to be on top of things, always trying to be in control of everything that’s happening around me, needing to know everything that’s going on. I suddenly felt like I was just one little part of the whole big picture and I realise that I cannot understand everything. I cannot know everything. I cannot achieve everything or do everything. There’s always going to be more out there. Instead I can just relax, be the little part that I am, just be the one cog on the great big wheel of life, play my role, do my thing, do it well, and marvel at the great big picture.

Thank you to the Fair Harvest team and all the people that made it happen – teachers and students and family and friends alike – for having given me a very insightful and inspiring two weeks.

It's wonderful being a part of the world. We humans, I am, totally part of this network of living things. I love it!

It’s wonderful being a part of the world. We humans, I am, totally part of this network of living things. I love it!

12 Responses to “My two weeks at Fair Harvest Permaculture

  • geez Svenja what a great blog……and you take THE BEST pics !…..hope to come and visit you one of these days

    • Outback Greenie
      3 years ago

      Thank you Jodie! You are welcome up here any time! We have a spare room, or a lawn for swags if you prefer (though the dog may lick your face and the chickens may say good morning too). I’ve been eyeing around the landscape for possible drylands food forest spots… One day I might need experienced input. Just putting it out there… 😉

  • Great write up OG…you are inspiring me to get on the course one day
    😉

    • Outback Greenie
      3 years ago

      Do it! It is so so so worth it! Even just for the food alone it’d be worth it 🙂 plus all the knowledge and wonderful people… Do it!

  • Great words and pix svenya. Glad you had a good time! See you in meeka one of these days…. All the best xc

  • What a huge talent you are Svenja ( I had already noticed). This is a beautiful and fun blog….a work of art really. Thanks so much for sharing your experiences on here. I remember the day I felt small, and just part of a team, not responsible for the whole outcome. It was a profound realisation because up till then I somehow felt indispensable and soley responsible. No No No, just a cog . Nice. Thanks!

    • Outback Greenie
      3 years ago

      Thank you so much for your kind words, Bee! It’s a very calming realisation, I like it.

  • Thanks for a wonderful read and visual feast Svenja

  • ERANA TAWHARA
    3 years ago

    Thankyou so much for sharing your experience. I have been to Fair Harvest 3 years ago on a yoga retreat and absolutely loved the whole experience. I would love to do the permaculture course one day.
    Your story was truely inspiring thanks again
    . Erana from Perth

    • Outback Greenie
      3 years ago

      I can highly recommend it…! I didn’t know they also do yoga retreats – that would have been a great experience indeed.

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