Available courses

Intro Permaculture

Intro Permaculture

This Course introduces you to the ethics, design theory (Natural Sy...

Vital Elements

Vital Elements

Understanding Forests, Water, Soils, Buildings, Aquaculture, Maricu...

Design Skills

Design Skills

This is the final module of the full Traditional Permacultuer Desig...

Site announcements

Preview of upcoming post connected to our recent video with Prf Stuart Hill

by April Sampson-kelly -

Inner Landscape - On Being Totally Grapefruit


Permaculture Your Inner Landscape

Spontaneity Nurtures Inner Worlds

Professor Stuart Hill, ecologist, social-ecologist, and transformative leader challenges us all to explore and refine our inner landscape. Stuart reminds us of our formative years. At first, we live with open eyes and a passion to live from the ‘inside-out’. But with cultural conditioning, we live from the ‘outside-in’. He challenges us to regain our spontaneity, curiosity, and honesty. We become ourselves and get comfortable with being different. This healthy diversity enriches us, our relationships, and the world.

Drawing of a young bearded Banana gazing at his own navel, wondering "who am I".

We start life with spontaneity, and our curiosity enables us to appreciate context and environment. And so, we begin to conform. Bit by bit, we learn to live from the outside-in. Over time, our inner child learns to please other people and conform to society.

Tom, a wide-eyed boy, paints his face with mulberry juice

This conditioning, however, prevents our awareness. And it blocks our ability to be ‘present in the moment’, and gives away our power. Ultimately, we risk accepting compromises to our ethics and values. ‘Most people will be in denial of this’. states Stuart.

When we recover our spontaneity and curiousity, we are freed.

Painting of big moon floating over clouds and rolling hills with a curly ladder and spiral slide. Two ladies floating in front of the moon with a teapot, tea cups, a bouquet of flowers, wisps of scented clouds of tea, blue birds and falling petals

Becoming Different Enriches the World

Children around the world are conditioned. They learn to conform. In earnest, the adults aim to keep them safe and well, and help them develop skills. But, it is damaging to their inner landscape. Slowly, the child’s inner landscape becomes patterned. Eventually, their responses become habitual. The child begins to seek to please the teacher rather than seek the truth.

However, by staying curious, we develop skills that align with our passions. Openness allows us to be different. And it is these differences that create a wondrous tapestry of cultures and people.

Understanding and utilising the differences in people helps us to create better teamwork and better designs. Teamwork and a diversity of approaches and ideas enrich permaculture design, teaching, and practice.

Collaboration brings people together, shares the workload and opens possibilities.

Power of Collaboration

Stuart urges the Permaculture designers to collaborate more. Designers, clients, and members of the community need to work together for a design to be effective and valued. He encourages us to find out what is close to the client’s heart. Kindling the client’s passion, the permaculture design starts to evolve. With joy, the users engage and build competence.

Focus On The Exceptional

Stuart also explores the idea of systems thinking. He notes that anything that is happening in one place in the world is also happening all over. You will find 20% nasty, evil stuff, 10% really good stuff and the rest is compensatory. He challenges Permaculture to focus on the 10% really good stuff in order to keep thriving. All of us have to be awake, attentive, thinking, reflective, and avoid being judgemental. Don’t let the errors of Guru’s turn you away from their gems of insights.

Why Not Worship Gurus

Furthermore, when we searching for the top 10% of leaders, we may inadvertently create them into gurus. But the problem (according to Stuart Hill), with worshiping ‘gurus’ is that people try to imitate the high level of competence of the guru. Instead, what we really need is to uncover the learning journey taken by the guru. Then, we might discover how they focused on their own 10%. Best of all, we may learn how they resisted compromising their values.

Learning about the stages of development of great thinkers, through listening to their background stories, leads us to develop our own story. Nurturing our curiosity, we discover what is interesting to us. We find our own ‘exceptional’.

Work to your own agenda

About Stuart B. Hill

Professor Stuart B. Hill is Foundation Chair of Social Ecology at the University of Western Sydney. At UWS he taught units on Qualitative Research Methodology, Social Ecology Research, Transformative Learning, Leadership and Change, and Sustainability, Leadership and Change (he retired in 2009 and is now an Emeritus Professor in their School of Education).

Keywords for Permaculture Internet Searching

by April Sampson-kelly -

Some students have asked about what keywords are good to help them in general internet searches for Permaculture related topics. 

Keywords for internet searches on topics related to Permaculture

Element Cards to help with Relationship of Elements exercise

by April Sampson-kelly -

Element Cards to help with Relationship of Elements exercise

Attached is a file with a large collection of element cards.

These cards are in draft form but still useful as a guide for your analysis of elements. They can be used to help you connect elements in functional relationships. One card can be linked with another card like a game of dominos. The outputs of one element can provide inputs for another.

The information on these cards was compiled by students so need your evaluation & correction.

List of Elements

by April Sampson-kelly -
Here is a list of elements. This collection of 180+ elements is developed from a list provided by Penny Pyett of Permaculture Sydney Institute.

access roads
arts & crafts
balcony garden
banana circle
bee hive
berry grove
Bike rack
bird avairy
bird baths
board walk
bush tucker
cafe shop
car park
car/bus drop off point
chook dome
chook pen
chook tractor
cob oven
communal gardens
compost bays
compost bins
compost depot
compost heaps
compost toilet
cool cupboard
craft/ weaving plants
deciduous vines
diversion drain
Eucalyptus tree
farmers market
feral animals
ferment processing bay
fertiliser tanks
fire shelter
fodder crops
food forest
front entrance
fruit/ nut trees
garden produce
glasss house
grey water system
ground covers
guinea pig lawn mower
herb spiral
herbal teas
individual plots
indoor worm farm
insect attractant plants
irrigation pipe
keyhole beds
kids garden
labarinth / maze
liquid manure container
living ground covers
lockable cupboard
manadala garden
Medicinal plants
mound garden bed
mulch plants
mushroom logs
native plants/trees
notice boards
oak tree
outdoor bathroom
outdoor classroom
outdoor cooking
outdoor dining
outdoor kitchen
outdoor sink 
outdoor workspace
paper processing bay
paper soaking drum
pest water species
pizza oven
play area
propagation shed
protection zone/firebreak
quick pic garden
quilds/ 3 sisters
rabbits (domestic)
rabbits (feral)
recycle shed
resource room/library
sales cart
seed display
seed sprouting and fermenting
seed storage
seedlings trays
shade house
shade tree
sheltered rest area
solar dryer
solar lights
solar oven
solar panels
soldierfly farm
storage seat/garden bench
straw bale vegie garden
straw bale/mud walls
street library box
sun dial
tea coffee room
tea/coffee area
teabushes and herbs
tool shed
visor trees
water feature
water plants
water tanks
weather station
wicking pots
wind turbine
wood fired hot tub
worm farm
worm tube
yard or compound
zone 0 home/centre

Discussion prompts about Trees

by April Sampson-kelly -

Discussion prompts that I will be using to teach about Trees this week at Permaculture Sydney Institute. 

If you would like to start a conversion with a friend or class, you can use these keywords. I'll printing them out and cutting the table up into slips of paper to draw from a hat. 

The person who can talk about the topic gets a point and whoever has already spoken about the topic they get that one as a bonus point. It doesn't have to be a competition, just engaging.

Discussion prompts




Microclimate regulation

Water table lowering


Water treatment

Soil conditioning

Mycorrhizal communication


Animal barriers


Temperature mitigation

Thermal mass


Petroleum nuts




Wild animal food







CO2 absorption







Pollution mitigation



Floor coverings






Nutrient management

Soil stability





Musical instruments







Insect food







Nutrient mining




Nitrogen cycling

Cloud seeding

Fossil fuels






Fish food


Spider webs





Edible leaves

Biogas material

Fire retardant

Rain harvesting

Condensation harvesting

Drinking water source




Mental health

Companion plants

Tsunami & Flood rescue





and here is a post coming out next week.

What Does a Tree Do All Day?

One tree performs many functions

Every day a tree goes to work. It flexes and grows, repairs and renews. It draws nutrients to the top, distributes water to the leaves, and when the season is right, it flowers and fruits. Lucky for humanity, the fruit is just the cherry on top. Let's celebrate how forests serve to keep humanity happy.

Undercover, the roots help collect nutrients, keep a grip on soil and rocks, search for new territory, negotiate pathways, and often exchange benefits with other roots and fungi. The roots even whisper to other like-minded tree roots.

Up above, the treetops are busy attracting pollinators and friendly fertilisers (birds and mammals), deflecting damaging wind, keeping warm, and sheltering their young saplings. Impressively, a tree can regulate the temperature around itself by regulating the moisture content in its trunk. This is an additional feat on top of the great thermal mass quality of wood.

photo taken at australian tropical foods nursery QLD https://www.capetribfarm.com.au/Tropical fruits capetribfarm

A tree is a busy organism but it is never alone. Every tree belongs to a community of forest organisms. Even in death, the tree decomposes and recomposes itself through its relationship with forest organisms.

Oblivious of their importance to humanity, the tree absorbs CO2 and releases life-giving Oxygen. But surprisingly, recent research shows that many trees, worldwide have hit their limit and are now shouting a warning.

Specialist Trees

Dartmoor forest

There are some highly specialised. ‘Super-trees‘ powers ranged from diesel nuts, leaves that can burn whilst wet, abundant fruit, or communities of creatures. Occasionally a tree can be big enough to shelter a family, provide timber that never rots, live for thousands of years, support kilometers of fungi underground, or hold steep slopes of mighty mountains. Many trees communicate for miles underground.

There are at least 10 types of trees that humanity depends upon. The yield is potentially limitless due to the capacity for the exponential growth of a forest. They provide fuel, food, oils, forage, structural, conservation, carbon sequestration, soil management, animal barriers, and fungal & microbial habitat.

Energy from trees

a Chinese kang uses small twigs to cook food and heat the bed.Chinese Kang uses small windfall twigs to cook food and heat the bed

Fuel from trees comes in many forms. You can choose from solid fuel (wood) and flammable leaves, bark, oil and ‘diesel’ nuts. Solid fuel comes from windfalls (cones from nut pines, fallen wood) or harvest cuts (thinning, or felling). David Holmgren writes that solid fuels are the most useful energy resource globally because: we can plan for their harvest, they are easy to cut, require little training to use, convert easily to energy, hard to steal or vandalise, and renew themselves. Some timber ie. Eucalyptus leaves will even burn wet. Diesel and Petroleum treesburn like candles.

The Brazilian tropical rainforest tree Copaifera langsdorffii commonly known as Capaiba (Tupi Indian word cupa-yba), a legume, is called the diesel treeThe tree is tapped sustainably like maple syrup. More powerful n-Heptane is distilled from the oil of Pittosporum resiniferum.
Another form of fuel is BioGas from coppiced tree material via composting for methane collection.

Food and Alcohol on Tap

dancing ferments

More than 80% of the world’s food species came from the rainforest. The permaculture food forest diversifies the yeild. It usually mixes fruit and nut trees. Because, unlike the commercial orchard, the permaculture fruits do not all have to ripen at once to go to market. In fact, it is handy to have a longer period of harvest. This extend the season and avoid gluts. In addition, the food forest trees have a variety of roles. Strong food trees support vine crops. Whereas short-lived trees act as nurse young canopy trees. Tall evergreens huddle as wind-breaks. While a deciduous pear gently shades the balcony.

Oils from Forests

There is a myriad of herbal, medicinal, culinary, and cosmetic oils from trees. Most famously Frankincense and Myrrh. Common oils today include Pine, Eucalyptus, Olive, Teatree, and Neem.

Out on the Forest Farm

Forests for animal forage and fodder are all but forgotten by modern farming. Many varieties excellent, nutritious fodder for animals. Forming living fences, hedges, they shelter as well as feed farm animals. In return, the cattle and sheep fertilise the fodder trees. In addition, forest shrubbery and leaf litter filter any excess nitrogen. Forage Examples include: Oak, Poplar, Acacia aneura (Mulga), Albizia Julibrissa (Leguminous, deciduousfast growing, regenerates) and Dodnaea viscosa (Hop bush),

Living Fences

Hedging technique in Dartmoor U.K.

Animal barrier systems such as hedges are stronger, longer-lasting, and more durable than fences. Hedges might look chaotic, but the borders can be trimmed. The chaos can have boundaries. Hedges permit small creatures to pass underneath and larger animals/people and cars to stay out.

Thinking Bigger

Structural Products

Many trees were big enough to shelter a traveller. Even Plato wrote about trees too big to put his arms around. Good old fashioned lumber (wood for building) is still in business. Valued attributes include flexibility, lightweight, thermal mass and pliability. Traditional buildings in Japan use wood to build earthquake-safe housing. Wood has more to offer. Recently, an 18 storey Skyscraper was built out of engineered wood in Norway.

Big Network, Big Potential

There are kilometers of fungi in just a cup of soil. These Fungi & Microbe powerhouses can convert sugars into energy sources more readily than machines. Paul Stamets shows how mushrooms can save the world.

Indirect Benefits To Humanity

Giant Lilly Pilly

Conservation/Wildlife Habitat The preservation of habitat makes good economic sense as much as an ethical sense. If nothing more, we can keep healthy forests as a bank of diverse genetic material because most of it we have not yet recognised it’s full value to us. Machines might be able to create clean air, water, soil, and find nutrients but our prosperity still depends upon nature's bank of genetic diversity.

Carbon Sequestration is the long-term storage of carbon dioxide or other forms of carbon to either mitigate or defer global warming and avoid dangerous climate change. Long living trees are excellent guardians of carbon. Many trees live thousands of years (including olives) however, clonal colonies of trees have the potential to be immortal. Pando, an 80,000-year-old colony of Quaking Aspen, is the oldest known clonal tree.

Forests Build Their Own World

Forests create and protect soil. Trees will halt erosion by holding banks of steep slopes and trapping centuries of organic matter. They even create their own rain by trapping moisture with the leaves seed the clouds by releasing fungi and other particles. Best of all, forests can create a beneficial micro-climate.  

Energise Your Future

Growing Transition

Last century, humans used wood to make steam, to turn pistons that turned wheels on tracks to move people from station to station. Before that, we would grow grain to feed to horses that pulled the wagons of cut trees we used to heat our homes and cook food. These technologies still work, that in the future the technologies will be cleaner and more efficient.

Today, we use a lot of electricity. one of the biggest challenges for the conversion to natural energy use is finding a form that is compatible with the system we already have. Nicole Foss talks about our limitations due to the current dependence on particular forms of energy. At the moment, mankind is dependent on either electricity from an aging grid network and on liquid fuel or gas for transport. Biogas and other energy transition technologies allow us to convert existing equipment such as gas cookers and tractors.

Looking ahead, transition technologies will connect us more easily with the type of energy that nature offers.

Plant Now. Enjoy in 2050.

Forests are facing three big threats. The first threat comes land clearing, the second from global warming and thirdly, increasing public fear of fire.


Making space for nature begins with making space for trees. Understanding the different products and services that forests offer and using trees to fit well with the urban space will create healthier cities. "Traditionally human settlement has set about to conquer nature and exclude other species. It is time to realise that part of our ecological happiness comes from other species." Evolutionary biologist Prof Menno Schilthuizen

What Can One Do?

People have the power to increase urban forests because ownership of most of the open spaces is actually in private hands. We learn from nature by reconnecting, getting involved in citizen nature projects, and building the ability to observe. Ultimately, we begin to partner with nature.

Do we need a reason to reforest the earth? Perhaps we should do it simply because we can.

"It is the range of biodiversity that we must care for - the whole thing - rather than just one or two stars" David Attenborough

Permaculture mimics nature. By observing how nature faces challenges, we design for smarter and efficient uses of her resources.

Older topics...