Permaculture adventures in Sector39

Trying to make sense of living in a crazy time

Commentary on permaculture, networking, courses updates, news and related info
Cwm Harry Land Trust, Treflach Farm, Permanent Housing co-operative, S39 work with several different projects, gardens and farms
Links and discussion on wider sustainability issues, news and opinion

Sector39 is a partnership of gardeners, teachers and rural craftsfolk, working in persuit of a saner, more sustainable world.

It’s time we talked, Sector39 2015 Newsletter

There has never been a more important time for permaculture and looking ahead to 2015 it is going to be really interesting year. I have produced a newsletter in a downloadable format looking forward to the coming 12 months and I really want to open up the audience for permaculture design by offering 2 courses, one spread over 6 weekends in Reading from 7th January and one leading up to the Midsummer solstice in Mid Wales which will be 2 week residential course. I have created this newsletter in the hope that it will travel far and wide and help us reach people who are not yet maying attention to these issues.

Clicking on the image will download the Newsletter in PDF form, please circulate widely! Many thanks


The Soil Solution to climate change

Excellent soil and soil carbon video

Whilst on th e subject of climate change responses, this is als really interesting for all of the possibilitirs it opens up.


Naomi Klein, at the Live Guardian debate

Naomi Klein believes that the most profound threat humanity has ever faced is happening right now; that our economic model is waging war against life on earth.

Last night (6/10/14) she spoke to a packed auditorium on her thoughts on how solving Climate Change, “em>changes everything”and gives us the platform to challenge capitalism and consumerism. It is not working for the planet, is creating wealth inequality on an unprecedented scale and is deeply unsustainable in many ways. The time for profound change is upon us.

This is immense, important, essential watching and frames the way forward for us all. She talks of an 8-10% year o year reduction in carbon emissions and a transformation of economy and value systems. Much food for thought here.


Permaculture, Films for Action


Building a sustainable future – reasons to be cheerful!

Gloom and doom abounds in the papers and across the media. Helplessly we stumble towards Climate Armageddon as our governments fight over the dwindling oil reserves and the access routes to them. News tells us that half of all wild animals have been decimated since on 1970, while Governments want to take away our human rights and corporates want to own everything about our lives, what left is there for us to do except give in and let the bastards win?


There is actually so much positive things going on the World and as increasing numbers of people figure it out for themselves – grass roots action is the only sane response. Things have to change and the self-serving politicians and finance industry will have to be dragged kicking and screaming into the post carbon World by an active and engaged population. Real democracy is not simply about voting men in suits into office periodically, it is about setting the agenda for what they talk about and holding them accountable for what they do that which really matters.


PDC group at Moelyci community owned farm, with produce from the course

So here at Sector39 we have just delivered our 24th successful permaculture design course and are planning the 25th. I am just back from visiting the maturing Reading Roof Garden that has been growing away there since 2002 and I note with interest: there is growing interest in edible landscaping and it possibilities. After the work I did as Sector39  in Liverpool over the last two years I am becoming increasingly excited about the possibilities of urban growing.  At the end of this month I am off on a 2 week study of sustainable agriculture projects in Uganda, a return visit to when the group will be visiting came to Wales three years ago.  All this and so much more.


I  am so pleased for and proud of my good friend Ritchie who together with his colleagues have put up their first full size stunning timber frame building in a village near here. Local skills, local materials and a design that sequestrates tons of carbon in the form of timber and creates local meaningful work This is what a sustainable localised future could look like and it feels to be gathering in momentum from where I am standing.


Me,  Steve Jones (left) with volunteer planting team on the Stockbridge estate, Liverpool


Spotting opportunities for community growing

Here is a great example of what is possible for growing in public spaces. This filed was once the play grounds for a school in Liverpool, and is now a dead piece of ground which is mowed by the council but no more. The arrows designate pathways and desire lines of where people choose to walk. That triangular area to the right of the third arrow is where we planted a new food forest, its south facing and adjacent to where people walk but actually a space where none actually goes. there are so many of these kinds of opportunities in cityscapes to crate pocket orchards and wildlife havens.

academy-launch (1)

Launch of the North Wales permaculture academy, with Sector39 friends and supporters.

The view we wish to cultivate is that we are surrounded by tremendous opportunity,  we know which way things will need to move,  so we are best to get busy preparing as best we can to better facilitate this process. To this end we are busy putting together plans for a North Wales Permaculture Academy.  With the intention of running a full programme of courses planned over several years. Giving us the chance to develop internships,  long term volunteer programmes as well as undertaking research and more.

We have already delivered our first PDC at Moelyci community owned farm near Bangor and are hoping to be able to put down some roots there and develop a project base with longer term ambitions. We ran a project launch event in August and are now planning our next priorities.


Views of the Reading Roof garden, 2007 and 2014

It is a constant excitement to me to see the garden and landscapes we have been involved with over the last few yeas evolve and mature, and see the wildlife move in and populate the habitats and spaces created. last winter we planted a new forest garden for our community in Llanfyllin and I look forward to see how that develops, meanwhile it was a total please to return to Reading to teach at the roof garden there this September. In fact I was encouraged such that I am now planning to run a 6 part PDC there this winter. it is an ideal venue really, a successful community project, that has led the way in education about inequality and sustainability for decades. I am proud to have worked with them in their early days, as well as returning in the early 2000’s to help on the roof garden project itself.


Meanwhile the Newtown garden continues to mature and as it enters its third year it is starting to look amazing. the original plans we drawn up by a study group who came on a 5 day permaculture design workshop in July 2012. We hope to have created a template for small community horticulture, local produce and training centre and are working to develop our links with both the college next door as well as the wider Newtown community’

Newtown community garden, into its third year and is increasing in yield and popularity as it grows

Newtown community garden, into its third year and is increasing in yield and popularity as it grows



All of these ideas and experiences feed into the courses, workshops and training sessions that we run.
Permaculture brings together habitat restoration, with waste reduction and food growing, it explores community approaches to development to re-green and build abundance across private public and wild spaces. Low impact buildings, co-operatives, inclusivity and a positive solutions led approach to design makes permaculture a world of new possibilities.


Study tour on the Reading Roof garden last weekend. It has become a popular annual event, so much so that we are now planning to run a PDC there in the New Year.

It is really exciting to see biodiversity grow on the roof garden as it develops

It is really exciting to see biodiversity grow on the roof garden as it develops

The evolving forest gardens seem a perfect example of what is possible if we plan and make priority for these kind of spaces and use design processes and values systems such as permaculture to bring them about.

Sector39 are keen to meet with and work with anyone else who can see a positive vision of the future, one that embraces Earth, People and Personal freedom, that meets the needs of all, not just some some at the expense of our longer term sustainability.  We want to live in abundance as part of an inter connected community of people, local , national and global.


Grow a forest anyway – wonderful short video

A forest planted by humans, then left to nature’s own devices, typically takes at least 100 years to mature. But what if we could make the process happen ten times faster? In this short talk, eco-entrepreneur (and TED Fellow) Shubhendu Sharma explains how to create a mini-forest ecosystem anywhere.

Its permaculture and another form, but also a process with active facilitation. Mechanisms like this that empower individuals to make actions are going to be essential to re green the planet and save from the ecocide we are collectively committing.


Breaking the narrative

Governments and corporate power attempt to own the debate and set the frame of the narrative. Here are a couple of great speakers shattering the prevailing narrative and exposing the confusion and lies that lurk beneath. Governments and corporate power are controlling the prevailing narrative, one which subjugates all else to its own ends. We are expected to tolerate murder, brutality, the dismantling of the welfare apparatus, to see governments ceding power to the corporates who don’t serve our best interests. It is time for a history lesson and a powerful speech on the need for personal action.

Tony Benn – 10 min History Lesson for Neo liberals.
Great oratory from Tony Benn, in minutes he condenses the history of the labour movement, critiques Thatherism, privatisation and neo liberalism.

Chris Hedges is a Pullitzer prize winninng journlist with a very clear critique of corporate and government power. This is a long and very powerful speech that identifies the core issues of the day.

Chris Hedges in in fine form here and he doesn’t pull his punches. He sets out his store and challenges us all to action.

‘The American dream is a cruel hoax’.
‘We are being taught to tolerate the intolerant’.
‘We are the most monitored and spied on population in human history’
‘Resistance at its core is about affirming life. It is the highest form of spirituality. Who will we stand with as our civilization unravels? To live in the fullest sense of the word means open rebellion and constant defiance of all centres of power.’


Drought, drought everywhere!

As California and the S.E. U.S. dries up, so does the money supply and interestingly so is our oil supply.

Max Keiser, on the money as ever points out that the free money created by Q.E. by governments is flooding investment markets with fantasy ideas.  Pumping water in a drought and fracking wells of shale oil and gas are all symptoms of desperation to maintain the reality that we cannot admit to ourselves is coming to an end. Governments printing money and lending it for free to large institutions is crippling the economy and distorting reality beyond belief.

Excellent acerbic comment on the crazy times we live in.


Visit to the Reading Roof Garden

I always love gong back to the reading roof garden to teach, it is such an excellent example of what is possible and powerful place to teach about the possibilities and potentials of forest gardens, with one growing on the roof above you. The was an excellent turn out and the experience has prompted me to consider returning there more regularly, possibly to run a series of permaculture sessions or even a PDC.

The garden was planted in 2002 mainly so it is 12 years old now and maturing nicely. The size of the canopy trees is quite astounding, of the original 176 species of plants much of the under-story has now been shaded out, and those under-story plants that have flourished have also migrated around, choosing their own positions and self seeding successfully.

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The power of trophic cascades

In 1995, naturalists re-introduced wolves into Yellowstone National Park in 1995. These wolves were on their own initially but that soon spiralled into something much more amazing. Since this video was first published there has been a range of opinions about the nature of trophic cascades and the degree to which the claims of the study stand up to scrutiny. Maybe rather than top down, the cascade works middle out, maybe the role of the wolves is over estimated etc…. none the less this points to a very different approach to understanding ecology and habitat restoration and points to the possibility of rapid habitat restoration using natural processes.


This piece of work also underlines the huge holes we have created in natural systems by removing some of the key species and as to why we are required to do so much intervention work to maintain some of the diversity in places such as our national parks and conservation areas.