A bit over a week ago, I organized my first permablitz of the year. With more experience and maturity, I felt that it went a lot smoother than last year’s one. This had to do with better preparation and a clear schedule of work, lunch and workshop time. Working with the host has been a pleasure throughout as well, her being an amazing chef and an overal very nurturing human being. The journey up to the main event has taken some time but after the permablitz, we’re over the hill with the project and now its a matter of finishing off and polishing.
It took some time to get here. I first started talking to my client in July 2015. After 8 months, we’re finally seeing some tangible results. The reason it took so long is because it took time to get government finance for this project, gathering the required resources, and we were absent on occasions. Because I spent so much time waiting, it would be very feasible to run parallel projects if I were to grow the permaculture design consultancy project supported by permablitzing. Here are some pictures which document the journey:
A first look at the garden
My draft Sketchup design
I decided to work with raised beds for aesthetic reasons in case plants wouldn´t yield the results we wanted and to avoid the garden looking too much like a jungle for the neighbor´s sake. Having everything in boxes also allows overview and room for experimentation.
Gathering materials was another challenge. Because I was set on making raised beds, we had to figure out how to do this as cheaply as possible. I´ve always been a fan of using pallets for everything because of their low cost and their ready made structure. Pallet hunting took a while but via via, we found a petting zoo which had an overload of pallets we could just pick up and take. Via this friend, we were also able to get transportation to carry everything so this reduced costs as well. Having a few stacks of pallets to work with was a good start.
Soon after, I started experimenting with ways to build a raised bed out of the pallets. Would I have to take everything apart? Or was there a shortcut? Through some experimentation and finding the path of least resistance, I ended up with a prototype of the raised beds we were going to make. I bought some really cheap rootcloth at an urban garden center on my street which I would use to close the gaps between pallet planks by stapling them on. Cutting up bits of pallet wood allowed me to make connecting pieces to fix the pallets to each other.
Another resource we got for free was woodchips from the municipality. This was brought to us by a large truck with a hydraulic excavator.
Woodchips are super useful for multiple things including enriching the soil, making woodchip paths, adding a base layer for the raised beds and offering another carbon source for the compost pile. Potentially, they could also be used as a substrate to grow mushrooms on. Urban farming for the win.
Once we had all the materials in place, we needed some tools. Thankfully, the Vredestuin (our friendly neighborhood community garden) gave us access to theirs. Transportation seems to be one of my main challenges with the organization… would be great if we had a van… for now, it means borrowing cars and using public transport to transport materials from A to B.
People tend to look a bit weird when you’re bringing a wheel barrow and shovels in the metro but on the most part, they ignore you and don’t really ask any questions. Most people tend to just avoid and ignore crazy people.
The permablitz itself also attracted a varied and interesting crowd of people. I’m thankful for everyone that showed up. I probably should’ve gotten my technical assistant to take some pictures during my presentation but to get an idea of the event, the layout of the day was as follows:
- 10.30-11.00: gather and get settled
- 11.00-11.30: introduction
- 11.30-13.00: work until lunch
- 13.00-13.30: lunch
- 13.30-14.30: workshop on Permaculture basics with some practical knowledge on weeds and composting
- 14.30-END: work until tasks are complete
I used the above schedule more as a guideline to help direct the day but just went with feeling and adjusted to circumstances. Overall, I think it went pretty well. People came in energized and also left satisfied with a feeling of wanting more.
We’ll have to see when the next event will be. For now, I think its good to finish off the website of the organization just so that I can refer people to it if they have any questions. It also gives a starting point for any promotion and marketing we might want to do. Also, finishing off the project by filling the beds with compost and seedlings would also be something that would need to be done, so still have plenty to work on. My life may be taking another direction in the near future however… but will update when things start to manifest more concretely. Until then!