Saturday, October 30, 2010

Tale of two Tokyos - Domestic Robots and Permaculture bathrooms.

Roving, roving.
I'm now staying in Central Tokyo, at my usual home with the Ota family.

Robot and charcoal-fired tea ceremony brazier

This morning I reached for the broom, I got a surprise. Professor Ota came running out "No No!"
He bent down, fiddled with something on the floor, and out it sprang - the floor-sweeping robot.

I'm not a squealy girl, but this was festive, and a squeal was the natural response to having a robot scampering around. I'm living in the miracle-world future. The Jetson's cartoons I watched when tiny are now my life.

We sat and enjoyed our whisked macha green tea, with Chestnut sweets. It it bounced around irrepressibly, gobbling dust and fallen petals, then wiggling into its dock when it decided its task was complete.

Moss-eating bathroom snail

Here is a solar-powered, silent version, spotted the other week on a visit to my friend Phil Cashman's place, in Zushi, Tokyo's outskirts.
Its a particularly well-designed snail, cleaning the bathroom slowly but steadily.

Phil made his bathroom himself, from an old Miso barrel, and other reclaimed timber.
To reach it you cross a bridge, the lively stream below flows from the greywater-reclaiming system he is constructing. Unwanted nutrients are removed automatically by useful micro-organisms and plants. No recharging, all on site, and again, silent. Oh, and free.

Wooden Tub

He's become so skilled at recruiting mirco-help, he put together this daisy-fresh compost toilet.

And while he was at it, he put in an outdoor shower, probably with water caught from the roof and warmed by the sun....
Its a Toilet Tower, actually, to make sure there's room for everything. Instead of flushing, our contributions are followed by a cup full of sawdust, to get the carbon/nitrogen balance just right, heat-treating the mix below. There are two old bathtubs, the second one full of crumbly humus, happy earthworms.
The toilet tower and other buildings are veiled by this Egyptian bean vine, which Phil said just thrived over the hot summer holidays, with no watering. It scrambles up the sunniest walls, just where its needed, a self-installing, self-directing awning. Solar powered.

But wait, it does more.
This bean employs microbes, right at its roots. It trades them sugars, in return for converting air-nitrogen into usable nitrogen for itself and its neighbors in the soil, making it a rich community down there. Its beans are also good for people, making them happy at dinnertime. And its strikingly beautiful.

Phil Cashman

Robust, pro-active, productive, and multi-skilled. And gorgeous. A real treasure.

My friend YumiBear babysits Phill Cashman's daughters.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Cecilia at APC 10 and "Inner Permaculture' tricks and treats

Here I am raving about my design niche and life mission: 'Permaculture on the Inside'.
I'm looking sparkley, because people were so interested, and that keeps me going, knowing Im deeply useful.

This month I'm digging up all my testamonials, to try to work out what people most value in my workshops, so I can refine what I do for next year.
Here is a taste of recent feedback, I'll add more as I dig them up:

Thanks Cecilia for a wonderful Refreshing night!
I go home tonight knowing that from tomorrow I will make a big effort to not nag my hubby and look more at the positive.
Nagging doesn’t work anyway!
I would have loved though to get perhaps one more detailed topic being addressed in detail... so that I can go home and apply it straight away : )
Your presentation was great.
PS Loved the Zones.

Thank you. I liked the calm, respectful way you educate.
I found useful:
Not labelling things as good or bad
the interaction in all living things

Every word you uttered was a message from above.
Please come back
Y. P.

Loved the presentation. Very colorful, loved the pictures. Found the Permaculture communication and mental health aspect very cool and interesting.

Interesting Approach to human relations based on Permaculture principals.
I loved ‘Permaculture’ for the house Zones 1 - 5
I would love to hear more about the Arabian watering system
I loved ‘Fluffy’ soil and people!
Thanks for your energy and inspriation.

Hi Cecilia
I loved the idea of integration and sharing. That every thing could be shared lovingly.
With skill and observation we can make all areas of human interaction beautiful.

I’m new to permaculture so this talk was inspirational. I loved all the illustration.
Thanks Cecilia for a wonderful Refreshing night!
I go home tonight knowing that from tomorrow I will make a big effort to not nag my hubby and look more at the positive.
Nagging doesn’t work anyway!
I would have loved though to get perhaps one more detailed topic being addressed in detail... so that I can go home and apply it straight away : )
Your presentation was great.
PS Loved the Zones.

Hi Cecilia
I loved the idea of integration and sharing. That every thing should be shared loveingly. With skill and observation we can make all areas of human interaction beautiful.

I’m new to permaculture so this talk was inspirational. I loved all the illustration. I loved your positive attitude, it really sparked some thoughts.
Design is just soo much more!

Cecilia - just love your outlook on life. I need to think about the 70% is full enough.

I loved everything -
Japanese Farmer and his orchard - growing rye as a mulch
organizing and finding
time for things we love.
I loved your positive attitude, it really sparked some thoughts.
Design is just soo much more!

I will bring home:
Think of design
Be happy
Look wide

I loved everything -
Japanese Farmer and his orchard - growing rye as a mulch
Organizing and finding things
Making time for things we love.

What I saw was inspiring . Your way of looking at life, our surroundings & the systems that affect us, that create blocks to change or blocks to being effective, is a unique perspective - at least for me.

I learnt:
Design with understanding human strengths and weaknesses
People love finishing things
Reduce useless diversity
Trust the System
Pillow wood!


What I liked the most is the way you design for not 'good' people an include yourself in the group.
By the end of the day we are all human beings and therefore we are not perfect.
The way you talk make people not feel bad for being normal and not perfect and good!
And helps us understand we can be effective and get wonderful results with not that much effort, just by choosing the right design.

Design to Accept and Receive Feedback:
These bits of paper make me realize I give as many different presentations as there are people in each room - people here what they need to hear. Now that's Relaxing.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Resourceful Beachcombing in Tokyo, Homeless Halloween style

Most of the materials for our enchanted edible garden have already made their own way to Asaba Art Square - plant cuttings, timber that fell of a truck, mountain mulch and more.
To gather the finishing touches, pebbles and driftwood, we set of for a peaceful beachcombing picnic on the Miura peninsula.
The days are now cool, and the beaches deserted.

We emerged though the tunnel of bamboo to the beach, to discover a tiny little dwelling.
Look what was coming from the bit of poly-pipe sticking out of the roof:

And look, a splendid balcony garden. After its Autumn Harvest, I suppose.

It was driftwood-powered, flotsam-harvested waterfront lifestyle living.

At the front door was a tinkling bead curtain. The doorpost was dignified by a ticking clock, richly decorated with aluminium and plastic scrolls. Possibly put in place to assist in catching the rush-hour train to work. But probably not.

As I'm living a vagabond life myself these days, I'm able to look with complete admiration when seeing someone else do a good job of it.
So who made up this household?

For starters, a chicken. Just to set the tone.

One guard-cat.

One fishercat.

One hulking friendly wildcat

And look who's sitting in MY bucket - a stowaway cat.

This is Yoshiko-san, she is my friend, and she's a ghostwriter. She is amused.

I'm still waiting for a householder to appear, and I'm getting pretty interested by now, because with cats like this, the owner would be not your average guy.

These cats were stars.
They were enthusiastic risk-takers, leaping deftly from one stack of rickety boxes to another.

Note the bead curtain

They were socially graceful, making my acquaintance immediately, and entertaining me with a good play fight. Claws were politely retracted, as is proper when beating up a new friend. And it goes without saying, they were dainty in matters of personal hygiene.

They were also generous, giving their mates a lick in the hard-to-wash spots.

They were chivalrous, taking turns at mealtimes.

So engaging, they were, that I almost missed the drama behind me.

Five men in crispy shirts. Official men. Dangling ID's were in full swing.
It wasn't looking good for the three bears, or whoever lived here.

I've never been able to resist a chance for some caped crusading when I think I'm seeing bullies in action. Up I strode from the waves, botticelli's blonde in in combat mode.

Reaching the party I bowed politely, wondering what I was going to say. Four astonished men bowed back.

In English I'm only funny by accident. But in Japanese I have to make a few words go a long way,
so it comes out witty.

"O-hikkoshi (moving day?) desu ka"? I enquired politely
It came out as a gloriously multi-layered rendition of the neigbourhood sing-song greeting "Having a little Outing are we?" and it got a full-spectrum response: the sidewards stare that says 'who's this dork', to the smile of fellows very interested in whats going to happen next.

We had a brief, though one way conversation on world-class Japanese resourcefulness. We discussed (again, one way) how this example of domestic irrepressability might be giving hope to the hope to harried teens and salarymen of Tokyo. Life-saving hope.

I left them to it.

It was the chicken though who eventually showed four men out.

The remaining man was the householder.
"I've been here for 10 years now" he told me. "Sometimes the local government get complaints, so they have to come and check up. Mothers worry I might hurt their children".

I told him that if the daffy mothers took a proper look at the clues, the well-adjusted cats and little garden attempts, they'd work out for themselves if there was danger here or not.

"You are the only one who says so".
But the officials seemed to get along with him just fine.

He showed me how the cats go all floppy and purry when they hear the rhythm of a heartbeat, like being with their mum again.

People who suddenly have to give up their cats leave them in his care, he said. They give him a bit of money too.

Its an old fishing village. Plenty to feed the furry family, plenty of tumbledown sheds to keep the stove burning, and plenty of ways to use your ingenuity when you wake up each morning. To the darn rooster.

We go though life cowering at things that would never hurt us, while fearlessly committing mayhem on a daily basis.
Imagine if I could re-arrange where my fears went, like re-arranging furniture. "Creating a family - no problem." "Toast and marmalade - terrifying'
I could do amazing things. Till I was very, very old, very loved.

Get scared of the right things, is my message to myself this Halloween.

What scary things are you staring down these days? People doing scary things are my favourite kind of people. Tell me your scary story, and I will barrack for you.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

APC 10 Highlights - Enchanting Permaculture

Costumed for a fresh green APC 10.

Its like a dream that so soon after returning to Japan, I flew off again for a week in Cairns. My mission was to hang out with the hero's of Permaculture at APC 10, sharing Cecilia-flavoured PermaCulture with my friends and colleagues.

In true Edge Garden fashion I will just list my personal micro-highlights, the things that occoured at the edges, while the great speakers did their thing. 'How' this APC turned out is the truest indication of 'What' was said anyway. Get the little things right, and the big things take care of themselves.

Highlight #1
Interpretive Bushdancing at the Closing party.

Bush dancing usually makes me run fast in the opposite direction - I've no talent for submitting to micro-management. But Interpretative Permaculture bush dancing will make you laugh so hard that is hurts. Thank-you Sam from Pitchfork designs, Central Victoria
And thank-you Costa for being our adorable MC - you cultivated one great show, and made us all stars.

Gorgeous guy from Costa's Gardening Odyssey

Highlight #2
Compost Showers
The best things in life are free - you just have to work out how to make them turn up on your doorstep.
When I had my Permaculture share house, I did so much unneeded plotting for the fantasy outdoor shower, when all I had to do was link it to my compost heap. How obvious, how elegant, how cool. I will definitly do this, maybe Here in Japan.

Tip: The hottest showers are while the hottest speakers have everyone else captive in the hall. Just Google them later or get the APC 10 DVD.

Hoses coil around inside the heap,
absorbing the heat of decomposing compost

Highlight 3
Daryl Hanna the movie star
Daryl Hanna, a Freshly-hatched Permaculture Designer

She gave a fun, lively keynote speech full of affection for the broken-down, wonky parts of ourselves and our world.

I'm so looking forward to seeing what this practical, love-fueled lady does with her freshly-earned Permaculture Design Certificate, back at the ranch and beyond.

Highlight #4
Giving my "Inner Permaculture' presentation - three whole times.

It took me a decade to make, it looks great, and I inspire myself every time I give it.
Thank-you for the lovely feedback, its what really keeps me going xx

Highlight #5
Going on Bruce Zell's tour
It was booked out, but a gorgeous guy gave up his seat, and I got to meet the creators of 4 home-made tropical paradise gardens, and eat like I was in heaven.

Botanical Ark is a private botanical garden, and one families attempt to save the rainforests, which might one day save us. They won back yard of the year award, without even knowing what it was, as they have no television.

September is off-season for diversty of harvest, explains Alan

Susan Carle greeting us elegantly, as is her way,
with a native fruit smoothie.

Goldfish Surveillance team from
Bruce Zell's Contraption-rich Back garden

Highlight #5
Escaping from Bruce Zell's tour (there are two sides to everything)
Feeling fresh after a stolen swim.

There was one visit that just didn't suit me. If I had Gumboots for the mud, a parasol for the tropical sun, and a tropical fruit farm in need of inspiration, I might have stayed.
Complaining was off the menu - Permies don't complain, they Design, forage, and solve.

I ended up swishing around alone in a mossy-banked stream, marveling that heavenly spots are often one minute away, waiting to be had. I got back to the bus in good time and good spirits.

Highlight #6
Robyn Clayfield's Haystack leaping
Robyn showed us photos of last year's students jumping from the hay bale, as they publicly committed to jumping into things they didn't yet know how to do - starting gardens, creating festivals, Permaculture adventures galore.
She then hauled us out into the garden, defying time restraints, to commit to doing great things. There could not have been a better use of 20 minutes out of these 4 days. My jump was to find a publisher for a mainstream book on my Permaculture.
How on earth will I do this?

You can DIY - find a high place, a big aspiration, and put it out to the universe. Tell me too, maybe we can do something together.

Highlight #7
Nametag discovery
It was a nametag-free event.
I didn't like this, but the side effect was valuable discovery: When introducing yourself to strangers, the Last thing you say is your name.
People don't know until After you have finished your spiel if they need to ( or want to) remember who you are. To withold your name till the end builds suspense, (try it) and its a thoughtful way to keep their minds free for things and people the really need to know.
As with 'Plant a tree where it will grow', only tell people things they need to know, when they need to know it.
Yet another trick to keep the world Clutter-free.

Highlight #8
David Holmgren's Whole-life Permaculture

Gems of his Skyped-in presentation include:

"Create no waste, including human energy, right down to how small you need to chop vegetables. Don't waste sound energy - think before you speak".

and on the Second ethic:

"Care for the Earth contains a bit too much hubris, if you are thinking of the whole planet. But if you just consider the earth under your feet, the soil, (your contribution will be valuable)." (My Paraphrase)

He acknowledged the work Beautiful diaries of Michele Margolis do in delivering attractive PC to the mainstream - I always thought so.
The best bit was the fond pat on his wife Su's hand when she strolled in to say goodnight.

Highlight # 9
Geoff Lawton, ceaselessly frontier-crossing

This weekend he turned up with two presents for the permaculture world:

The Appetizer: A freshly-made skillfully-animated video on the miraculous world soils - how weeds bless damaged soil with their healing functions was the highlight for me.

The Main course: A preview of a Facebook-like Database to showcase what Permies all over the world are doing.
This is BIG.
We can no longer get away with just holding Good and Correct Opinions.
We will now have to practice what we preach, and we will have all these colleagues and resources at our fingertips to connect with and make our ideas real.
Geoff, you are such a John Wayne.

Highlight #10
Volunteers create Miracles - and we are all volunteers
The Organizers of APC 10 are a tiny little outback group, less than two years old, called Permaculture Cairns. They could not possibly have the resources to round up 350 of Australia's Movers and Shakers, and made us happy for 4 whole days.
Yet that is what they did.

I may never know how the miracle got pulled off. Of course there are the months of hard, capable work from Anne and Gorgie, but what fueled that? Choosing the enchanted Steiner school setting might have done it, sweetening each moment.

There was something strangely amazing about the volunteers:
They fixed our problems.
Every time.
They stayed positive and in action, and I think it caught on, so that a critical mass of the attendees decided 'this is My APC', because wherever I went with a problem or a whinge, there was someone who swiftly, creatively conquered it.

Ceci Whine -"I want more audience"
Vollie Fix - "No worries, here's an extra room, here are texta's and paper for a sign - do it again"

C W - "I'll die if I don't get hot tea"
V F - "No worries, here's the equipment"

C W - "Someone else will die if I can't find a non-snoring camp spot"
V F - "No worries, lets pick up your tent and take it for a walk."

Cartoon by April Sampson Kelly, who is actually my friend.
Lending, mending, fetching and improvising. Harry and Robina and Glen and Annie and Sarah-Jane and April and The Techies and was kind of endless.

Volunteers Bruce Zell and Sarah Jane

I'm sure that APC Presenters said in words what Permaculture is and can be, about creating 'ecologies' of useful connections, creating value from whats lying around, staying positive, productive and in action.
APC 10 as an 'organism' said it wordlessly, through our attitutude and actions. We are our own proof that Permaculture makes life great.

The next APC 11 in New Zealand, 2012. We could find out who is organizing it, find out what they cannot do that we can, and make it brilliant.

Ferocious Permaculture

For the official highlights and illustrious guests please go to the APC 10 Website
More photos and stories on Cecilia's Facebook.

Ro Morrow inspires me.