Where do you live?
Melbourne. Inner city enough to grow bananas, thanks to the heat-island effect.
Describe your property
We live in an old weatherboard, painted pale turquoise. The whole garden is full of fruit trees, edible vines, currants, berries, vegetables and flowers. When we’re in the front yard, people walking by often stop to tell us how much they like it.
Who do you live with?
My wife Annie, our dog Little and Lucy our housemate.
What do you do?
I’m a director, with Dan Palmer, of Very Edible Gardens (VEG), a permaculture design business. Mostly I’m involved in design and education.
How did VEG come about?
Dan and I were part of starting the permablitz (volunteer backyard makeover) network, and a wealthy entrepreneur approached us wanting to form a veggie gardening business together with him. However, he wanted something a bit more ‘commodifiable’, and we wanted something a bit more interesting, and truer to permaculture, so we went out on our own.
How has VEG grown since you first started it?
Much of our effort has been to keep it from growing too wildly.
What inspires you to do the work you do?
Sometimes you come across ideas that are just waiting for someone to realise them. It’s not always wise to submit to them, because they can subsume you, but sometimes I lack the will to resist.
What are the main ethics behind what you do?
I’m all over the three permaculture ethics, and VEG’s stated purpose is to help ‘grow healthy and abundant communities, landscapes and liveliehoods by designing and creating regenerative, human-supporting ecosystems’.
How did you come up with the idea of ‘permablitz’ and make it happen?
I didn’t! I was lucky enough to attend the first ‘volunteer backyard makeover’ network event, before they had a name, in early 2006, and I’ve been involved since. Dan organised the first one with a South American community group. The concept seems to have a life of its own now.
Can you tell us about your new book and what inspired you to write it?
It’s called The weed forager’s handbook: a guide to edible and medicinal weeds in Australia (2012, Hyland House), and I wrote it with my wife Annie Raser-Rowland. She inspired/cajoled me into it. You can get a copy at www.eatthatweed.com
How do you juggle all the parts of your life?
I feign incompetence to avoid responsibilities, and save time by cutting corners on my personal hygiene. Actually, Annie does most of the gardening.
What would you say to someone who was trying to make a living out of permaculture?
There aren’t a lot of well-trodden paths, so it can be complex turning it into a living. It’s worth considering keeping a parttime job, so that you have lots of free time to really indulge your passions without financial pressures. If you’re straight out of a permaculture design course, do lots of volunteer work first to get your skills and knowledge up.
We’re starting to share our knowledge on running a green business through workshops. Dan ran one in March 2014 in Sydney (see www.veryediblegardens.com).