Over the last few weeks, like so many others, we have been struggling to make sense of the fast-moving coronavirus microbe as it invisibly envelops the globe.

And we’ve been thinking about how we can keep the business going in a way that’s responsible, safe and tailored to the changing times.

Here’s what we’re doing so far:

  • We are focusing above all on keeping our customers and team healthy and eliminating any contribution to community transmission.
  • At this stage we are still taking on design consultancy and garden installations, following strict protocols to ensure this is safe for our customers and team.
  • We are preparing some free video and other resources supporting people toward enhanced food, water and energy security at home. Watch this space!!
  • Online services: we’re offering a new online consulting service where we’ll help you understand your property and make a start on vegetable gardens, water capture, egg production, and so forth. See here for details.
  • We’re taking certain courses online. These include the four-day workshop Dan will run with David Holmgren on Advanced Permaculture Design Process. Adam’s edible weeds walks for the next couple of months at least will move to a live-streamed format with a choose-your-own adventure pick-your-own-weeds and have them identified-by-Adam option. Jeremy’s Understanding Weather course has also moved online and is likely to have a fresh intake for Session #2 in June – contact him for more info.

So there’s plenty to get in touch about.

But there’s a bigger picture here. And although much hardship might be coming, especially for the elderly and immunocompromised, and for the economically vulnerable, we think possibly, potentially, maybe, some real genuine good stuff can come out of it too. If you’re interested do read on…

So if you’ve been paying attention you’ll know that although it’s early days, the doubling rate of reported infections in Victoria and Australia is only about four days, worse than the world average, suggesting inadequate measures have been taken so far. Some medical professionals have warned that we’re doing worse than Italy. Yiiiikes.

So how do we take care of ourselves without being an idiot about it? We all want to do the responsible thing, provide for ourselves and our loved ones, and have enough resources to be able to socially isolate, especially if we are concerned we might be infected, for the good of everyone. But it feels like a fine line between being well set up to weather a storm, and going overboard and taking way more than your share.

Well permaculture is about building personal, household and community resilience. Here’s our mate and permaculture co-originator David Holmgren talking about food security a few years back:

Food insecurity also shows up in affluent countries in many surprising ways. In Australia declining backyard food production since the 1960s and the loss of community, reduced the opportunities for barter and social insurance from non-monetary exchange. In the decades since, increasing apartment living and smaller backyards has reduced the capacity for household food production. Multiple generations of wage, and even welfare dependence, has left many Australians without even the “skills of poverty”, including food gardening and home preserving. In recent decades high debt levels have seen all household members commuting to work or school, leaving little time for food gardening, animal rearing and preserving. The decline in home cooking and storage of food at home have increased dependence on 24/7 commercial food outlets which themselves have become monopolised and transport dependent. The constant drive for greater efficiency and profits by food corporations has seen “Just In Time” logistics replace warehousing and storage in shops. Interruptions to supply chains from natural or economic disasters set up instant dependence of large populations on emergency relief on an unprecedented scale. Even without Peak Oil and Climate Change, the prospects of large numbers of people being food insecure in Australia increases inexorably due to the dysfunctions of multi-generational affluence. I wonder why people feel so comfortable relying on Coles as their personal food cupboard.

David Holmgren, Food for thought, security and sovereignty, 2014

It’s a provocative phrase, the “skills of poverty”! Probably not the best marketing if we do a “skills of poverty” workshop series… But it’s a key point – that we can produce for many of our own needs, and we can do more with less with the stuff we buy. We just need to do a little skilling up in some ways that might seem a little hokey, at least to some. The skilling up is actually fun though we reckon, and it gives you a sense of becoming a human Swiss Army knife of multidimensional awesomeness. Even if it’s just a tiny sliver of awesomeness at a time.

A human Swiss Army knife of multidimensional awesomeness (source)

More than this, there’s the skills of “frugal hedonism“: how to live and be in way that lets us suck the most pleasure from the least amount of resources.

If we can take care of ourselves, we can help take care of others, share skills, share tools, share resources. Be part of a growing community resilience.

This very well might not be the only major crisis we’ll see in our lifetimes, as environmental pressures meet a growing population. But we can emerge from this one better ready to tackle those in the future. We are as keen as ever to continue sharing our knowledge and skills towards helping others on their journey toward enhanced community resilience and useful and better connection to their local ecologies. Take care of yourself and those more vulnerable, as we’ll do our best to do too.

Love, Team VEG

P.S. For making sense of the situation here’s a couple of resources we’ve found useful:

Potential Future Scenarios for COVID-19 Epidemics/Pandemics over the next 18 Months, by Paul Higgins

Coronavirus: Why You Must Act Now, by Tomas Pueyo