Jordan green and lush, seaweed to sequester carbon, and healthy Amish

Hi, this is Geoff,

I’m at the Greening the Desert Project, Dead Sea Valley, Jordan teaching a Permaculture Design Certificate with a co-teacher from Zaytuna Farm’s one-year practical apprenticeship program, which trains project managers. We have 19 paying international students and 15 Jordanian sponsored. We follow this with a four-week practical internship with 13 international students and six sponsored Jordanians.

As I write, the enquires and opportunities keep on coming in for the Middle East region!

The project site is more lush and green at the end of summer than I have ever seen it, and this year the summer temperatures were the most severe in living history. The main vegetable garden is still in good production, where normally at this time of year it’s just about shut down with the high summer temperatures and no rain since March. The food forest canopy is now creating good shade and the under storey plants and ground covers are still lush and green. Date palms are in full production along with pomegranates and figs.

The 26 one-meter-square wicking beds are all producing well and the four worm farms baths, and compost chicken tractors are all producing large amounts of organic fertiliser.

One of our unusual innovations, created two years ago on a previous internship, is three large and very deep pits filled with extremely hostile spiky legume tree prunings; the surrounding area is now indicating increased fertility in both plants and trees. We’ll be investigating the state of general decomposition and soil creation in these pits, and digging one more to take the last of our spiky legume tree pruning as we switch over to vigorous non-spiky tree legumes now that the soil on the site has increased fertility.

During the internship I look forward to reporting on quite a few new developments, e.g. we will be:

  • Improving the irrigation system, as we now have a new 80 cubic meter water tank built at the top of the site thanks to a donation from Muslim Aid Australia. This will allow for much greater efficiency of water collection, storage, and distribution around the site.
  • Building new wicking beds and many will be positioned to grow grape and other fruiting vines to shade the roof and large areas of the gardens around the buildings.
  • Installing tensioned cables from the roof of each building out to the boundary walls, and from building to building, all for the purpose of  growing high-tented shade with producing vine crops.
  • Refining both the compost chicken tractor systems and the partially underground rabbit house with the unusual construction materials of straw bale, earthbag superadobe, and reed mesh earth roof over roofing iron.
  • Making a new kennel and dog run for our guard dog (Max) who protects our rabbits’ babies from being predated on by stray cats.
  • We’ve had good success with Moringa growing on the site, so we have quite a few ready in the nursery ready to plant out.
  • We’ll also be planting out a greater diversity of perennial ground covers now that we’ve increased shade and soil fertility.

And while I’m on the subject of Jordan, and I am working in one of the lowest and driest places on earth, Jordan’s Water Wise Women are making a huge difference.

So, again from Jordan, I bring you the Friday Five…

Too Big For the World: A good read on a subject that I’ve often spent time thinking through, and working out how we can avoid this with smart design. Author of Confessions of a Recovering Environmentalist, Paul Kingsnorth, gives a glimpse into Austrian political thinker Leopold Kohr’s (prophetic) book, The Breakdown of Nations published in 1957, citing the “crisis of bigness” is upon us, and “the problem is not the thing that is big, but bigness itself.”

Amish on right track?: While some may ridicule their lifestyle, researchers from Ohio State University have found much lower rates of cancer than in the rest of the population. Yet again, food that’s rich in living enzymes, physical activity, good community, lack of stress, proper sleep, and a lack of vices is proving to be what nature intended.

Seaweed for Carbon Sequestering: Seaweed grows fast, sequesters carbon, cleans water at highly productive fish farms and can even, possibly, be used to make bricks and clothing. ‘Can Seaweed Save the World?’ was recently aired on ABC TV’s Catalyst program for Australian viewers. At same time, if these huge seaweed forests were grown in mid-ocean, how would whales traverse them? It’s also been discovered that feeding algae to cattle and sheep dramatically reduces their methane emissions.

Permaculture Profits: A great Mother Earth News article by Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms. Joel, who first encountered the term ‘Permaculture’ in a 1980 Plowboy interview with Bill Mollison, outlines some of his favourite permaculture principles: Value high water, Maximise space, Team up with animals, Apply smart design, and Manage Forests.

And in case you missed it: Here are a few interesting pieces published this week from our sister site, the non-profit Permaculture Research Institute:

If you enjoy these posts, be sure to bookmark the site as several new articles go up weekly, or check out thousands of other past articles, here.

That’s it for the Friday Five.

Feel free to forward to a friend. Anyone can sign up for the next batch. And remember to share your comments and thoughts below.

So, until next week,

Your friend,


2017-09-14T09:48:55+00:00 Blog|8 Comments
  • Gabrielle Harris

    So fantastic to be able to follow progress at the Jordan site and to read about the resilience that’s growing under the canopy, even as temperatures soar higher! Also watched the Wise Woman Water video, what a great concept; only just rejoined the mailing list after a hiatus, glad to be back and so enjoy these 5 bullet bulletins!

  • John-Eric Robinson

    Thanks for the Kingsnorth link! It fits right into the idea that localism is the way forward.

  • ionut barbu

    Hello Geoff .
    Thank you again for all things that you share with us .
    It’s amazing what you guys have achieved in Jordan and brings me hope .
    About those pits , could they work for some rather spiky gooseberry prunnings too ?
    And how long would they take to break down generally ?
    Maybe with extra manure on top ?
    Thank you you very much !
    All the best !

    • Bill Crandall-TA

      Pits would work for gooseberry prunings as well, though they will tend to be a bit less high in nitrogen. Lots of mixed things are fine, too: consider in how many ways the process resembles that of a compost pile.

      The time that things take to break down depends a lot on climate and conditions. With few exceptions, warmer and wetter is faster; colder and dryer is slower. Extra manure on top is apt to speed things, yes. In wet temperate areas, material cut in fall is often pretty well along by spring planting, apparently. In the wet tropics, one is apt to keep adding to the pit because things are webbed in fungal nets within days. In the desert, things can hang around for years if you don’t set up special conditions and if the ants don’t like the stuff.

      • ionut barbu

        Hello Bill .
        Thank you very much .
        That is very useful .
        It’s been extremely rainy summer here in Essex , UK , this year .
        We have a few gooseberry bushes and after saving a few cuttings new plants , it’s hard to get rid of the rest .
        I’ll try the pit , with plenty of manure .
        Maybe also cover them with some stuff for extra heat .
        Thanks once more .
        All the best .
        Ionuț .

  • Hello Geoff, Nadia and Team,

    Being based in Geneva/Switzerland, we mainly serve the Francophone world. I am an alumni of your 2015 PDC and we’re developping a demo site in France. I want to make sure that your work is recommended across all cultures. We have just published a MOOC review of “The Permaculture Circle” in French, see here
    Your Liking our FB page (search for PermacultureAttitude) and Following our Twitter feed @Permaculture_CH would help spreading the word. Keep going. We follow 🙂