Sustainability and permaculture educator, Fiona Campbell, explores the profusion of bananas, sugar cane, ginger and so much more growing in wild profusion in the Seed Savers Network home garden in Byron Bay.

WAY BACK IN 1992, the Australian Bureau of Statistics did something as unusual as it was useful. It assessed the productivity of Australia’s home gardens.

Why this was useful was that this type of do-it-yourself productivity is not counted in the national accounts, it does not appear in estimates of GDP. For the bean counters in planet Canberra, it belongs in the household, not the national economy.

Admittedly, when you drive through the suburbs it’s hard to imagine that there is anything other than hectares of sprawling lawn all shaved to uniform height, but there is. Those same suburbs produce…

Stories of the mountains…

Below the clouds and across the mountains, the sunlit distant valley. Mt Field National Park, Tasmania.

ONE of the things I like about walking in the mountains is reading the landscape. I have no formal qualifications in geography, however my interest in physical geography, the geography of landscape, goes back decades to when I came across a text book, title and author long forgotten, that spoke to me about how mountains are formed, how rivers come to be the way they are, and the dynamics of our shifting coastal landforms.

When I first came to live in Tasmania decades ago and started out in mountain travel by foot I discovered how the Pleistocene ice age shaped…

Stories of the road…

Some road trippers take house-sized caravans. Others take the smallest of vans. We encounteed the latter in the Levin Canyon carpark.

Compactness and lack of space is offset by lightness and ease of travel enabled by a travellers minimalism. The shot wheelbase VW Caddy DIY outfitted to circumnavigate Australia.

“People doing yoga”, I said to Fi as we drove into the carpark at Levin Canyon. Yes, there they were, a man and a woman over on the lawn in downward dog pose.

We drove to the canyon along a winding, rural Tasmanian road, descending and ascending the curves around Lake Barrington then through bushland and into increasingly sparse-looking farmland as the road steadily ascended.

The circuit walk to the lookouts above the deep and steep Levin Canyon is through forest and down more than 600 steps cut into the slope. It’s only a few kilometers and the walks to…

IN THE SHADE of a ginko (Ginko biloba) tree, Fi contemplates the landscape unaware that a large and voracious female peacock and chick are sneaking up behind her. Other cities have pigeons and seagulls. Cataract Gorge had a mob of loud and audacious peacocks inhabiting the area around the cafe parkland.

The parkland around the restaurant and kiosk at First Basin, so called for the large lake held in place by a barrage, was cleared from the bush and converted into what the people of the Victorian era of the 1890s regarded as a recreational reserve. There is a bandstand…

Few of those spreading disinformation about the Covid-19 pandemic and government attempts to stem it knew what they were resurrecting tactics going way back to the Cold War and before.

Graphic distributed on social media.

I WAS amazed. How could otherwise intelligent, seemingly sensible people spread these myths? Most have the benefit of a tertiary education. Yet here they were spreading ideas debunked by people knowledgable in what they commented on. Not only that, they denigrated the expertise of people who had years of training and practical experience. They imagined they knew more.

The coronavirus pandemic and government actions to eliminate it brought them out, however the seeds of their disbelief had been planted years, sometimes decades before, in-part by the magical thinking of the New Age and wellness movements. …

Stories of the mountains…

The lonliness of the long-distance hiker. The shores of Lake St Clair, Tasmania.

“YOU SHOULDN’T do that.”

“It’s dangerous.”

“What if you have an accident?”.

Theyadvice is all of one type — the well intentioned warnings of friends that come when they think someone is about to do something chancy.

The target of their concern is Suzie. She is a fit though not a tall woman somewhere in her thirties. Her long black hair and her face suggest an Asian heritage. Her livelihood is made in front of a screen in the digital world.

Her friends reacted with alarm when she told them she was going to walk solo along the Overland Track…

Book review…

CAR’S HEADLIGHTS had been turned on and clusters of commuters, hands thrust deep into pockets and heads bowed, scurried homeward along The Corso from the ferry wharf. It was a cold Friday in winter. The day was drawing to a close and a chilling wind was blowing in from the sea. The kind of evening when you turn up your collar and hurry to wherever it is that you are going, it was an evening for staying inside.

On impulse. That was why I walked into Desire Books and Records as if invited by the pool of warm yellow light…

Mt Anne summit, the late 1970s. Peter at left, the author at centre.

I’VE BEEN THINKING or Peter. It’s now a couple years since my friend, Yvonne, spoke of him. Neither she nor I had seen him for quite some time. For me, that was years.

I was managing a small adventure equipment business when I met him. The store was in downtown Launceston, the would-have-been capital of the state of Tasmania had Hobart not won the title. He probably walked into the shop one day and we got to talking. I don’t know how else I could have met him.

That was more than 40 years ago. It was over a decade…

In late-2020 Australian permaculture author Linda Woodrow published her speculative fiction book, 470. The publication highlighted the potential of the literary genre to get permaculture ideas across.

The interaction of science, technology, environment, society and people is a key component in speculative fiction. Photo: The CSIRO’s old solar thermal installation at White Cliffs NSW.

THE LITERATURE OF PERMACULTURE is best described as instructional writing. Books and manuals explain how to grow food, how to design an energy efficient house, how to teach the permaculture design system. It is factual writing. There is reportage too, articles about ideas, permaculture places and permaculture as a social movement.

The practical nature of permaculture books makes sense because permaculture is applied design. The exception is Bill Mollison’s 1997 book, Travels in Dreams: An Autobiography. Bill, with David Holmgren, co-originated the permaculture design system and announced it to the world in 1978 as Permaculture One.

But… what about fiction…

Stories of the coast…

Jed’s workshop with a job nearly finished.

JUST FOLLOW the road out of town and take the turnoff, she said. Okay, we’ll do that I say, knowing how easily we could get lost following her vague directions.

No need for worry. We found her place, no false turns, no ending up on some rural dead end. There it was. It’s one of those houses with the hand-made look of an unpretentious rural home… low-key, lived in, comfortable. Nothing shabby. It blends into the landscape of trees and open paddocks and into the fruit trees and vegetable garden that encroaches it. Life as rural idyll, probably.

We stay…

Russ Grayson

I'm an independent online and photojournalist living on the Tasmanian coast after nine months on the road in a minivan.

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